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There is an urban legend that children tell about a shinigaki that 

can release people from the pain they are suffering. This "Angel 

% 

of Death" has a name—Boogiepop. And the legends are true. 

Boogiepop is real. f 


When a rash of disappearances involving female students breaks 
out at Shinyo Academy, the police and faculty assume they just 
have a bunch of runaways on their hands. Yet Nagi Kirima knows 
better. Something mysterious and foul is afoot. Is it Boogiepop or 

something even more sinister.,,? 



Experience the story through several characters’ eyes as you piece 
together the true order of disturbing events, in this unforgettable 
prelude to the Boogiepop Phantom anime series! 


Over 2 million copies in print worldwide! 


781933 164168 


Science Fiction/Horror 

ISBN 1-933164- 


USA $9.99 
16-6 
5 0 9 9 9 > 


I 

tis 


9 



















































































" • *' . 

“J am automatic. When I detect adversity approaching, I float to the 
surface. That’s why 1 am Boogiepop — phantasmal, like bubbles.” 




w 




























“The story of Boogiepop is one that weighs heavily upon me. It’s a 
subject that I still haven’t finished sorting out my feelings about. ” 









































“Now that you have seen me, I cannot all 

- Manticore 


* "WSt 

“Now, you are our enemy.” 

- Saotome Masami 





-r 


“Apparently the Boogiepop stories were being kept 
secret from the boys. A myth only the girls knew.” 

- Suema Kazuko 


























































“So, all it ultimately amounts to is nothing?'' 

- Niitoki Kei 




“An alien. He took her wit 

- Kimura Akio 


-vM* 


him back into space. ” 











































“ Which is it? Which is the truth?” 

- Echoes 


"Why can't we pick who we fall 
with? It would be so much easie 




- Kamikishiro Naoko 


u M 



























































LOS ANGELES 

















































BOOGIEPOP AND OTHERS 
BOOGIEPOP WA WARAWANAi 

© MEDIA WORKS / KOUHEl KADONO 1998 

First published in 1998 by Media Works Inc., Tokyo, Japan. 

English translation rights arranged with Media Works Inc. 


No portion of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without 
written permission from the copyright holders. 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the 
products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance 
to actual events, locales, or pesons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 

Seven Seas and the Seven Seas logo are trademarks of Seven Seas 
Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved. 



English Translation: Andrew Cunningham 
Layout and Graphic Design: Jon Zamar & Nicky Lim 
Assistant Editor: Jason DeAngelis 
Editor Adam Arnold 


Visit us online at www.gomanpi.com 


Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment 


STAFF CREDITS 



ISBN: 1-933164-16-6 


Printed in Canada 


First printing: January, 2006 
10987654321 


















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Introduction 


Chapter One: 
Romantic Warrior 


Chapter Two: 

The Return of the Fire Witch 


Chapter Three: 

No One Lives Forever 


Chapter Four: 

I Wish You Heaven 


Chapter Five: 
Heartbreaker 


Afterword 


Roll Call at Shinyo Academy 


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SEVEN SEAS’ COMMITMENT TO 
TRANSLATION AUTHENTICITY 


JAPANESE NAME ORDER 

To ensure maximum authenticity in Seven Seas’ translation of Boogiepop and 
Others , all character names have been kept in their original Japanese name order 
with family name first and given name second. 

For copyright reasons, the names of Boogiepop creator Kouhei Kadono and 
illustrator Kouji Ogata appear in standard English name order. 


HONORIFICS 

In addition to preserving the original Japanese name order, Seven Seas is 
committed to ensuring that honorifics—polite speech that indicates a person’s 
status or relationship towards another individual—are retained within this book. 
Politeness is an integral facet of Japanese culture and we believe that maintaining 
honorifics in our translations helps bring out the same character nuances as seen 
in the original work. 

The following are some of the more common honorifics you may come across 
while reading this and other books: 


-san - The most common of all honorifics, it is an all-purpose suffix that can be 
used in any situation where politeness is expected. Generally seen as the 
equivalent to Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs., etc. 


-sama - This suffix is one level higher than “-san” and is used to confer great 
respect upon an individual. 

-dono - Stemming from the word “tono,” meaning “lord," “-dono” signifies an 
even higher level than “-sama,” and confers the utmost respect. 






-kun - This suffix is commonly used at the end of boys’ names to express either 
familiarity or endearment. It can also be used when addressing someone younger 
than oneself or of a lower status. 

-chan - Another common honorific. This suffix is mainly used to express 

endearment towards girls, but can also be used when referring to little boys or 

even pets. Couples are also known to use the term amongst each other to convey 

a sense of cuteness and intimacv. 

* 

Sentpai -This title is used towards one’s senior or “superior” in a particular group 
or organization. “Sempai” is most often used in a school setting, where 
underclassmen refer to upperclassmen as “sempai,” though it is also commonly 
said by employees when addressing fellow employees who hold seniority' in the 
workplace. 

Kouhai - This is the exact opposite of “sempai,” and is used to refer to 
underclassmen in school, junior employees at the workplace, etc. 

Sensei - Literally meaning “one who has come before,” this title is used for 
teachers, doctors, or masters of any profession or art. 









$ 


I 

y 

* 









Introduction 


O pening the shoji screen, the boy took a step onto the 
tatami of the darkened tea room. 

a ?? 

Wordlessly, he stared into the center of the room. 

Cushions and low tables were scattered everywhere. 

Only a small amount of light managed to pierce the decorative 
screen above the door and enter the room, making it difficult to 
see anything clearly. But he could see the scene easily enough. 

In the center of the room was a girl. One look and he knew 
she was dead. 

She was upside-down, thick white cotton socks on slender 
legs thrust into the air like the arms of a cheerleader at a pep 
rally. Her shoulders were limp on the floor, her head twisted 
around so it faced the same direction as her body. There was 
no blood anywhere. 

Her long black hair seemed to flow across the tatami, and 
her vacant eyes just seemed to stare back at the boy. 

a 


5 ? 








u 


20 I Kouhei Kadono 

The boy took a slow step backwards. 

As he did, something hot slid downwards from above, just 
grazing the tip of his nose. 

Startled, he glanced upward towards the ceiling. 

He froze. 

“You saw me,” said the killer hanging from the ceiling. It 
wore a girl’s shape, but was a creature of indeterminate 
gender. “Now that you have seen me, I cannot allow you to 
live.” Its voice was somewhere between laughing and singing. 

A moment later, the boy felt his body flung aside, as the 
creature lunged down towards him. 

Gah!” 

For some reason, the boy felt oddly happy. 

* 

V 

.. .The actual events probably form a very simple story. 

| From a distance, they appear to be quite confusing; to have no 

■ clear threads connecting them whatsoever, but the reality is 

; that this is undoubtedly a much more straightforward, 

commonplace tale. 

But from our individual standpoints, none of us were quite 
able to see the whole picture. All of the people who somehow 
had a part in this story were unable to see beyond their own 
unique role. 

My name is Niitoki Kei. 

I'm in my second year at Shinyo Academy, although I'm so 
small that I’m often mistaken for a junior high school student, or 
worse, some elementary school kid. Despite all this, I’m the 
president of the student discipline committee. 

‘ ‘Kei ’ s like a big sister. She might look like a kid, but there ’ s 









Boogiepop and Others I 21 

just something reliable about her,” my friends always tell me, 
half-mockingly. 

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly serious 
person, but everyone around me seems to think that I am. 
They're always asking me for some type of advice or help, and 
I've got a major sort of glitch where I can't ever seem to tell 
them no. 

“Can you, Kei?” 

“Niitoki, please!” 

Someone says these words to me and I just can’t settle 
down. 

But this has basically nothing to do with me being on the 
discipline committee. 

Our school is only an average, mid-level sort of place, 
but like many other high schools, it considers guidance to be 
the teacher’s job, and the discipline committee is just there 
for decoration. It’s sad, really. There are a number of 
students who have run away from home or gone missing this 
year, but none of the teachers care enough to put forth any 
effort into finding them, and all the headmaster does is whine 
about how much of a headache they are, and how poorly they 
reflect upon the school. Whatever. 

All this negligent attitude does is irritate the hell out of 
me. My tiny little sense of right and wrong is next to useless. 
It’s not like they’ll ever listen to me. 

If anything of any significance happened to us, we 
wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. 

As it was, we knew nothing. 

See, all the people close to me, myself included, had no 
way of knowing each other’s problems or just what wc were 
fighting. 





22 I Kouliei Kadono 


We simply had to guess blindly, and just act on our gut. 
The man who came from the sky, the woman made from 
his design—the twisted, strange events they brought about 
must have begun around that time. 

Right as my heart had been broken. 









• • • 


third year, class F 






















































T 

A he story of Boogiepop is one that weighs heavily 
upon me. It's a subject that I still haven't finished sorting out my 
feelings about. 

He’s no longer around, but I’m not really sure if I’m 
supposed to feel relieved about that fact or not. 

He was.. .unusual, to say the least. 

I’d never met anyone as strange as him in the seventeen 
years that I’ve been alive, and I doubt I ever will again. 

After all, he was a transforming super-hero. 

That sort of thing is only fun if they’re on TV. If you’re 
standing right next to one, it causes nothing but trouble. And, 
in my case, it wasn’t exactly somebody else’s problem. 

I never once saw him smile. 

He always looked grim, and would look at me and say 
depressing things like, “Takeda-kun, this world is filled with 
flaws.” This, with the exact same pretty face that always made 
my head reel. 

But Boogiepop is gone now. 






26 I Kouhei Kadono 


I’ll never know if everything he told me was a lie or not. 

One Sunday, with the middle of fall fast approaching, I was 
standing in front of the station, waiting for my girlfriend, Miyashita 
Touka. We were supposed to meet at eleven, but it was already 
three o’clock, and she had yet to appear. 

Did I mention she was a year younger than me? 
Apparently, her family was pretty strict, and for some stupid 
reason, I was expressly forbidden from even attempting to call 
her house. All I could ever do was simply wait for her to get in 
contact with me. So, once again, I was forced to stand there 
fretting while I patiently tried to wait for her to show. 

“Hey, Takeda-sempai!” someone called out. 

I turned around to find Saotome standing there. He was my 
kouhai, on the same committee as I was. There were three other 
students with him, two of them girls. 

“What’s this, a double date?” I said, aware that I was 
coming off as old-fashioned. 

“Something like that. You waiting for yours?” Saotome 
gave off pretty much the same impression whether in uniform 
or out. Wherever he was, he seemed to blend in. “You do 
realize that dating’s against school rules, right?” 

“Look who’s talking.” 

“Oh, you’re on the discipline committee as well?” the guy 
next to Saotome asked. 

‘Oh, yeah, sorry,’ I thought.. .but I couldn’t say that to a 
kouhai, so I just shrugged. 

“Then I guess we’ve got nothing to worry about,” he said, 
putting his arm around the shoulders of the girl next to him. 









Boogiepop and Others I 27 


Guess they were together. Go figure. 

“Yeah, I don’t give a damn either, but the teachers are a 
different matter. Better keep an eye out so they don’t catch 
you,” I grumbled. 

They all gave knowing laughs, then nodded and took their 
leave. As they walked off, I heard one of the girls say, “Guess 
who’s been dumped!” 

All I could think was, ‘Mind your own damn business! ’ 

I mean, it’s not that I actually like being on the discipline 
committee. It’s just that someone’s had to take the job and that 
someone ended up being me. 

That day, Touka never did show. 

(Have I really been dumped? Surely there would have been 
some sort of warning, right?) 

I waited despondently until five, unable to let things go. 

I knew I had to, though. 

I dragged myself away, feeling like the world had cast me 
aside. I was the only person in my class not going to college. 
Heck, everyone else was off studying for entrance exams. It’s 
no wonder I felt so left out. 

Then it happened. 

Staggering towards me was the kind of guy who would 
stand out in any crowd. 

He was a skinny young man, with roughly cropped hair 
that stood on end. He wore a badly torn, dirty white shirt that 
was just flung over his body. The shirt was unbuttoned, 
leaving his bare chest exposed. The bottoms of his pants legs 
trailed along the ground as his shoeless bare feet shuffled 
across the pavement. 

There was a serious looking wound on his head, and half his 
face was covered in blood. Though mostly dried, the blood stuck 








28 I Kouliei Kadono 


to his hair in clumps. One look at him, and I knew he was a 
mess, yet I couldn't avert my gaze. 

His eyes were unfocused, and he was moaning aloud. This 
was not some new fashion, but clearly a bona fide, genuinely 
crazy psychopath. Probably on drugs. 

(Yeesh, there are actually guys like this showing up in our 
town now too...?) 

Spooked, I averted my course, giving him a wide berth. 
Everyone else was doing the same, so there was a sort of air 
pocket forming around him. 

He tottered along in the center for a few moments. 

Then, suddenly, he collapsed to the ground. 

Before anyone could react, he began to sob quietly. 

“Enhhh.. .enhhhhh...” he sniveled. “Unngghhhhh.” 

Great, slobby tears rolled down his cheeks, heedless of his 
surroundings. 

A circle of people—myself among them—formed around 
him, watching. None of us dared move towards him. 

It was the strangest thing that I'd ever seen. 

It was bizarre, like something out of a surreal Eastern 
European movie. 

But there was one person who did approach him. 

He was shorter than me and dressed in a long, black cape 
with a collar that wrapped around him like a great coat, and a 
black hat like a shrunken pipe or a top hat without a brim. The 
hat was a size too big for his head, and half covered his eyes. 

On the hat and cape were gleaming bits of metal, like 
rivets or some sort of badge, sewn along the hem. It gave off 
the impression of armor. 

To match his all-black outfit, he wore black lipstick. His 
face was so white; it was like the ink painted on top of a 





Boogiepop and Others I 29 


glossy Noh mask. 

Clearly, this was another crazy person on the loose. 

The cloaked figure leaned his black hat over to the side, 
and whispered in the psycho’s ear. 

The psycho stared up at the cloaked figure with empty 
eyes. 

a, •>•> 

The man nodded and the psycho stopped crying. 

There was a slight stir from the crowd around them. It 
seemed that some form of silent communication had been 
established. 

The cloaked figure’s face snapped up and glared around at 
us. It was clear that he was seething with anger. 

“Do you think to do nothing when you see a fellow human 
crying?!” he suddenly shouted, loud and angry, in a clear, 
boyish soprano voice. “Is this what the advancement of 
civilization has lead to?! Urban life weeding out and killing the 
weak?! It’s appalling!” 

The crowd concluded that he was simply another loony 
and avoided eye contact, quickly dispersing. I started to follow 
suit, but he spun towards me, catching my eye. It was then that 
I finally got a clear look at his face. 

Words can’t begin to do justice to the shock I felt at that 
moment. 

Perhaps the best example I can give is to describe it like 
one of those nopperabou ghost stories—a faceless ghost, where 
you expect it to have no face, but instead, it looks just like you. 

At first you just don’t get it, but then you do, and it totally freaks 
you out. 

I stared at him, eyes wide open and mouth agape. 

But for him, I seemed to be little more than another face in 








30 I Kouhei Kadono 


the crowd, and he soon shifted his glare to the man next to me. 

Two policemen came rushing up. At last, someone had 
reported the psycho. 

“That him?” 

“Get up!” 

The policemen roughly tried to yank the man to his feet. 

He made no attempt to resist. 

“No need to be so violent. He’s afraid,” the black-hatted 
figure said, not fazed by the idea of lecturing policemen either. 

“What are you? His family?” 

“Just passing by,” the figure replied softly. “Don’t twist his 
arm like that!” 

“Step aside!” the policeman shouted, as another tried to 
shove the cloaked figure away. 

But the cloaked figure bent his body like a dancer, and 
evaded the policeman’s sweaty arm. 

“Wah!” the policeman cried, overbalancing and falling to his 
knees. 

It was like some kind of kung fu or maybe tai chi. All I 
know is that the cloaked figure’s motions came off as being 
extremely graceful and fluid. 

“This is what happens when you resort to violence,” the 
cloaked figure spat. 

“And that’s what I call interfering with a police officer!” 
the cop bellowed, springing to his feet. 

“Try performing your duty before you accuse me of 
interfering with it. It is your job to save people who are in 
trouble, not to trample them beneath your feet,” the cloaked 
figure said, as if delivering a speech. 

Meanwhile, the police had forgotten about the psycho, 
who had begun aimlessly tottering off down the street again 





Boogiepop and Others I 31 


with surprising speed. 

The policemen turned hurriedly to give chase, shouting, “Hey, 
you! Stop right there!” 

The cloaked figure in the black hat spun around, his cape 
fluttering, and dashed away. 

“Ah! Wait!” The policemen clearly couldn’t decide which 
quarry to chase. 

The cloaked figure moved like the wind, and vanished just 
as quickly around the next comer. 

I was left standing there, stunned. 

I was not stunned because of the cloaked figure’s bizarre 
behavior. Well, maybe I was, but much more shocking was 
having the image of his face burned into my eyes. The hat was 
low on his face and partially concealed it, but there was no 
mistaking those big, almond shaped eyes.. .they belonged to the 
girl that I had been waiting for all day—Miyashita Touka! 

And thus ended my first encounter with the mysterious 
cloaked figure—Boogiepop. 












T 

JL he next day, I went to school earlier than usual. 

The school that I go to, Shinyo Academy, has that 
something a lot of other schools don’t. Every student has an 
ID card, and every time we go in or out of the building, we have 
to slide it through a gate checker, like one of those ticket 
readers at the train station. They call it the Campus Advanced 
Information Administration System (or CAIAS, for short). 
Supposedly it helps the staff keep track of the exact number of 
students that attend, since the student population has started to 
decline as of late. 

But in actual practice, it doesn’t really change anything. 
Despite the grand design, this year, there have already been 
several students who have run away from home, or worse, simply 
vanished. The system they’re so proud of is really powerless 
when it comes to stopping students from doing whatever they like 
once they’re off school grounds. It’s what free will is all about. 

Anyway, our school is up in the mountains, so we have to 
walk up long, steep, green roads just to get there. On this 
particular morning, there was hardly anybody out on the road. 





Boogiepop and Others I 33 


The sports teams had long since started morning practice, but 
the rest of the student body had not yet started to arrive. 

“Yoohoo! Keiji!r came a cheerful girl’s voice from 
behind. 

I turned around to find a girl from my class, Kamikishiro 
Naoko, walking towards me. 

This girl had a habit of over-pronouncing people’s names, 
like she was sight-reading a word in some other language. 
Plus, she was always chirpy. 

“Now, now. Why so gloomy on such a beautiful 
morning?” she said, running to catch up, and thumping me 
hard on the back. 

Both Kamikishiro and I were breaking the school rules 
against dating. You could say that it gave us a certain 
connection; a certain ease to our interaction. A sort of 
sympathy that we couldn’t expect to get from friends of the 
same gender. We always joked around together, but today I 
was hardly in the mood. 

“You’re early,” I said curtly. “Not going for your usual 
dramatic entrance?” 

Kamikishiro was almost compulsively late and she always 
insisted that it was due to low blood pressure. If a teacher tried 
to chew her out for it, she would apologize dramatically and 
quite flirtatiously, I might add, which generally left the male 
teachers flustered, but it always seemed to do the trick, getting 
her off the hook. A powerful technique, indeed. 

“Yeah, well, had some stuff to take care of today. But spill 
already! How was your date yesterday?” 

“F-forget about it.” 

“You have a fight or something?” she asked, peering 
closely at my face with interest. She had a tendency to express 



34 I Kouhei Kadono 


her emotions a bit too obviously. She was very pretty, but had 
an open, loud laugh. This seemed to make some people think 
badly of her, no matter how good a person she was at heart. 

“A fight? I wish we could have,” I sighed. 

“Wait, what? That sounds serious!” 

“Whatever.” 

Another student passed us on a bicycle, so we fell quiet. 

As always, there was a committee member posted at the 
gates, like a train station guard, making sure the cards went 
through the gate check smoothly. 

“Oh, Takeda-sempai, you’re early,” said today’s guard, 
Niitoki Kei. She was the discipline committee president. Despite 
the ominous title, she was a tiny, cute girl with a childish face. 

“D-ditto,” I said, waving. We’d been on the health board 
together last year as well, so we had seen each other regularly for 
two years. 

“Momin’, Kei \” said Kamikishiro. Although they were friends 
already, Niitoki had ignored Kamikishiro’s dates on several 
occasions, and this had brought them even closer together. 

“My, my, are you two together now?” Niitoki said, eyes 
wide. 

“That’s scary, coming from you,” Kamikishiro laughed. 

“I didn’t mean it that way, really. Even if it were true, my 
lips are sealed.” 

“Trying to earn a favor, eh? Looks expensive.” 

“It is,” the committee president laughed. 

If she knew that Kamikishiro had both a second and first year 
student in her saddle, I doubt she could have been so blase about 
it. She was pretty serious, and she would probably get so angry 
that steam would shoot out of her ears. 

We put our cards through the gate check and went inside. 





Boogiepop and Others I 35 


“Sempai, don’t forget the meeting today!” she said as I 
waved in acknowledgement. 

Kamikishiro giggled. “She’s so cute.” 

“Who?” 

“ Kei. You know she’s got a crush on you, right? Puppy 
love...” 

“You’re one to talk.” 

Every relationship she had ended up like a war zone. I’m 
amazed she could still joke about it. 

“So what was it? Fuji-chan dump you?” Who knows why 
Kamikishiro always called Touka by a different reading of the 
kanji in her name, but here she was doing it again. 

“She stood me up.” 

“I can see why you got chest pains then! Ah ha ha!!” 

I suspected that she, too, stood up many a man. 

“What are girls thinking when they do that?” I asked. “It 
sure as hell isn’t about their boyfriend.” 

“That’s not an easy thing to answer. Hmm.. .it all depends, 
really. I know that it’s not always because they don’t want to 
see you, though. You know, stuff just sort of comes up.” 

“So what if they stand you up and dress like a man?” 

“Hunh? What are you talking about?! What’s that 
supposed to mean?” Kamikishiro’s eyes widened. 

Understandably. I didn’t know the answer either. 

“Never mind. Must have been seeing things.” 

“I don’t really get it.. .but you’ve got a lot of time on your 
hands, so you really ought to start taking love more seriously, ya 
hear?” she said in a sing-song voice. 

“What?” I replied, scowling, and she burst into song. 


“Life is brief, young maiden, fall in love; 




36 I Kouhei Kadono 


before the crimson bloom fades from your lips, 
before the tides of passion cool within your hips, 
for those of you who know no tomorrow. ” 

“You’re in a good mood. You in love againT 

“Kinda. Tee hee hee.” 

“For crying out loud, how many is this now?” 

Before we hit the halls, we smoothly shifted to a more 
standoffish attitude. We weren’t going out, but it was never a 
good idea to start any rumors. 

I let my feet carry me to Touka’s class. 

Once there, it wasn’t like I could actually talk to her, so I 
wasn’t exactly sure why I was going, but I couldn’t seem to 
help myself. 

Touka’s room was year two, class C, and it was still 
empty. 

Feeling suddenly tired, I flopped down on a chair inside. 

Once again the cloaked figure’s words ran through my 
mind, ‘Do you think to do nothing when you see a fellow 
human crying ?! ’ 

I paused for a moment. 

Was that really Touka? 

A twin brother, perhaps... ? 

No, she’d never mentioned one before. 

I heard someone coming, so I quickly got up and left the 
room. 

I stood as inconspicuously as I could in the covered 
passage, a few yards away from the room, and kept watch. 
The more I watched, the more pathetic I felt. 

(Aw, hell...) 

Touka was about the twentieth student to arrive. 




Boogiepop and Others I 37 


She was the same as always. There was no sign of any 
strange hat. 

But for some reason, she had an enormous Spalding bag in 
addition to her usual school bag. The sort that people generally 
keep sneakers or gym clothes in. 

Then she noticed me. 

She shot me a quizzical, innocent glance. 

I found myself grinning and nodding. 

She smiled softly and nodded back. 

Nothing different than usual. 

She didn’t seem at all bothered about having stood me up 
either. 

So as not to get noticed, we hardly ever spoke to each 
other at school. But words weren’t necessary. We had worked 
out our own sort of sign language that only the two of us 
knew. 

So I made one of those signs, putting my index finger up. 
This sign meant back of the garden after school. 

She made the same gesture, showing consent. 

Yeah, it was just like nothing had happened. 

Feeling like I was surrounded by a heavy smoke cloud, I 
drifted back to my own classroom. 

Kamikishiro wasn’t there yet. Probably still ‘taking care of 
stuff.’ Same as me. 

The discipline committee meeting was during lunch. 

“Ehem, I expect that all of you have noticed, but this year, 
discipline has become rather slack. There are now four girls, 
students here, who appear to have run away.” 





38 I Konliei Kadono 


They called it a meeting, but we hardly ever spoke at all. 
The teacher in charge would be the one to drone on and on at 
us the whole time. 

Frankly, we may have been called the discipline 
committee, but not one of us was operating under the illusion 
we could actually control anybody. Most of us were, like me, 
breaking those rules ourselves. 

The boy I met in town yesterday, Saotome, was the 
secretary. He took minutes in a notebook. Despite double 
dating on the side, he melted right into the atmosphere here, like a 
model committee member. 

“If any of you happen to hear about anything like that, 
then please, come running to me. One of their friends might be 
able to get in touch with them.” 

We made no response. We never did. The teacher never 
seemed to notice. 

“Incidentally, the infamous Kirima Nagi failed to arrive 
this morning. Make sure to keep an eye on her, hear? No 
telling what that girl’s plotting in the shadows.” 

He glanced sharply around the room. 

We remained silent. 

The only sound was the scritching of Saotome’s pen, 
jotting down absurdly complete minutes. 

Suddenly, the PA system crackled to life. 

“.. .Miyashita Touka, second year, class C. Please, return 
to the infirmary at once. Miyashita Touka, second year, 
class C...” 

I jerked in my seat, and it made a screeching sound on 
the floor. 

“Mm? Something the matter?” The teacher glared at 
me balefully. 





Boogiepop and Others I 39 

“I, uh, feel dizzy,” I said to excuse my actions, but in fact 
my head was reeling. 

“Are you okay, sempaiT ’ the president asked. “You look 
pale.” 

“Third year? You go on back to class.” 

Seniors had exams to study for and didn’t really play a 
major role on the committee. Heck, they didn’t even need to 
come the meetings in the first place. Of course, I wasn’t taking 
exams, but the teacher hadn’t bothered to remember that, 
apparently. 

“Okay.” 

I stood up, and the president followed suit. 

“Sensei, I’ll take him to the infirmary.” 

The teacher made a face, but then simply ordered her to 
hurry back. 

“.. .That okay?” I asked Niitoki. 

“Are you okay?” she whispered back. 

I said nothing else, but rushed to the infirmary. 

There was no one there. 

I let out a huge sigh of relief. 

The announcement had asked Touka to ‘return,’ so she 
must have been there before, but gone out again. 

(No, she was supposed to go home, but she must still be 
on campus. Her card hasn’t been swiped through the gate...) 

Thinking furiously, I slumped down on the bench beside 
me. 

“.. .You’re worried about her?” Niitoki asked. 

“Yeah, a little.” 

I looked up, and she spoke quickly, stiffly, “I thought as 
much. I’m in the same class as her.” 

I gaped at her, but she kept talking. 




40 I Kouhei Kadono 


“She’s been a little off recently. Like she can’t sit still. 
Glaring outside during class. The teacher yells at her about it a 
lot. I thought she might be having trouble with you or 
something.” 

I had no answer. 

“I like you too, you know. But—” 

a ?? 

“But it looks like you like her more than me.” 

She was glaring at me now. 

I couldn’t think of any way to respond. 

“I’m going back now,” she snapped, and bolted out of the 
infirmary. 

Needless to say, I was out of it for pretty much the rest of the 

day. 

After class, I went to the place where we had agreed to meet, 
but Touka wasn’t there. 

Sunlight barely filtered down to the deserted rear of the 
building, so it was quite dark around me. 

I threw my bag on the ground, shoved my hands in my 
pockets, and leaned against the wall. 

I couldn’t figure out what to do next, so I stared aimlessly 
up at the sky. 

The edge of the school roof made a clear straight line 
cutting the sky in half. 

But there was a shadow jutting over that line. 

I gasped in shock. 

It was the silhouette of a person. A person with a flat, pipe¬ 
like protrusion on their head, wrapped in what seemed like a 






Boogiepop and Others I 41 


cape. 

At that moment, I knew it was him. It was the mysterious 
cloaked figure. 

When he saw me, he spun around and pulled away. 

I yelled towards him, “W-wait!” 

Right beside me, there was an old fire escape. It was 
connected to windows on each floor and went all the way to 
the roof. 

I vaulted the locked gate at the bottom and raced up the 
stairs to the roof—in clear violation of school policy. 

When I hit the roof, I yelled, “Miyashita! That you?!” 

The cloaked figure slowly emerged from the shadows. He 
stared directly at me again. 

“You.. .know Miyashita Touka?” he said in Touka’s 
voice. It was a little deeper, more male sounding, but if you 
listened for it, it was clearly hers. “I see. We met yesterday, 
didn’t we? I have done you wrong. I ignored you, and for that.. .1 
apologize.” 

I rushed over to him and grabbed him by the shoulders. 

“What the hell are you talking about?!” 

Suddenly, my body was wafting through the air, and then 
came crashing down upon the concrete with a hard thud. 

“_91” 

• • 

Had he swept my legs out from under me? The pain raced 
through my entire body before I figured it out. 

“What.. .what’s going on?” I cried. 

“I should state clearly that I am not Miyashita Touka. 

('urrently, I am Boogiepop,” the cloaked figure whispered. 

“C-currently?” 

So, it had been her this morning? Is that what he meant? 

“I’m sure you’ve heard the idea before. Simply put, it 








42 I Kouliei Kadono 


resembles the concept of the split personality. Understand me 
so far?” this ‘Boogiepop’ continued. 

“S-split—?” 

“None of you have noticed yet, but danger is hovering 
above this school.. .and all mankind. That is why I have 
emerged.” 

I couldn’t quite decide if I really should be referring to 
Boogiepop as ‘he’ or not, but I could tell from his expression 
that he was deadly serious. 







4 



That evening, I called Touka’s house directly. 

“Miyashita speaking,” her mother answered. 

In my most serious voice, I said, “Hello. This is Takeda 
from the Shinyo Academy discipline committee. Is Touka 
present?” 

When she heard the words ‘discipline committee,’ Touka’s 
mother made a little gasping sound into the receiver. 

“H-has Touka done anything...? But we haven’t seen that 
since she started high school...” 

That? 

“I’d like to speak to her directly, if possible.” 

“O-of course! Just a moment,” she said in a much too 
respectful tone for some high school kid. Any other mother 
would have just said, “Hang on a sec,” or something equally 
i rite. She must have been distressed. 

“Touka speaking,” said Touka, in her usual voice. 

“Hi, it’s Takeda.” 

“Yes?” she said flatly. Presumably her mother was 




44 I Kouhei Kadono 


hovering near by. 

Apparently, the Miyashita residence still didn’t have any 
other extensions. 

“Did you go somewhere this Sunday?” 

“Not really,” she said, knocking the receiver twice. I took 
this to mean the same as two fingers held up in our sign 
language. It meant, ‘Sorry, not right now.’ 

Obviously, I already knew that, but I had to ask anyway. 

“Hey.” 

“Yes?” 

“You ever heard of Boogiepop?” 

“Eh?” she said blankly. I’d caught her completely off 
guard. “What’s that?” She wasn’t acting. She really didn’t 
know. 

“Never mind. It’s not important. I just really wanted to hear 
your voice, is all. Sorry.” 

“Thank you,” she said, very politely as if for her mother’s 
benefit. I translated it as a sign of pleasure. 

So, it looked like she didn’t hate me after all. 

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow at school.” 

“Sounds good.” 

I hung up first, and silence overcame me. 

I crossed my arms and tried to think. That Boogiepop guy 
had been right. Touka had completely forgotten about our date on 
the day before, and our promise to meet after school today. 

“She doesn’t know,” he had said, standing on the school 
roof, in the light of the setting sun. “If something threatens to 
erode her foothold of ignorance, she instantly ceases to know 
that as well. To erase the anomaly caused by not meeting you 
yesterday, she will have deleted all memories of the date from 
her mind.” 






Boogiepop and Others I 45 


“Deleted?” I said, still reeling, barely keeping up. “You 
mean, she’s forgotten that we were supposed to meet?” 

“Precisely. But this is assuredly not because she doesn’t 
take you seriously. Quite the reverse. I imagine she loves you 
quite a lot. Which is exactly why she needs to forget so 
thoroughly.” 

“How so?” 

“So that she doesn’t feel guilty. She doesn’t want to even 
think about you being mad at her. But that is something 
beyond her control,” he said from her very own lips. 

“What exactly are you? How long have you been... 
possessing her?” 

“Possessing? Can’t say I like that choice of words. It’s not 
like I chose to appear.” 

“Then why do you?!” 

“Because danger is upon us,” he said, gazing at me levelly. 

I flinched. His gaze held daggers. 

“I am automatic. When I detect adversity approaching, I 
float up out of Miyashita Touka. That’s why I am 
boogiepop—phantasmal, like bubbles.” 

“Adversity? What kind of...?” 

“There is a devil nesting in this school.” 

I know that sounds absolutely nuts coming from me, but 
when he said it, the look in his eyes was unmistakable—he 
was completely serious. 

The setting sun sent long shadows across the roof, 
boogiepop’s black clothes made him look half invisible and he 
virtually faded into the darkness. 

“It’s hidden among you now, but it poses a very real threat. It 
has barely begun to stir, but once it does, it will mean the end of 
ilie world.” 




46 I Kouhei Kadono 


His words were the ravings of a lunatic, but if you actually 
looked at him and heard his voice, they were horribly convincing. 

“Are.. .aren’t you the same thing?” I asked, resisting him with 
everything I had. For me, this man taking up residence in Touka’s 
body was pretty much the same as the end of the world. 

Touka’s other personality replied calmly, “I’m aware of 
that, which is why I never come out for long. This is also 
automatic. The rest of the time, I live peacefully as Miyashita 
Touka; gazing at you with ardor.” 

“Ardor? Hey...!” 

There was something antiquated about his manner of 
speaking. He even called me ‘ kimi ,’ like a scholar from the 
Meiji era. 

“My time today will shortly end. There is little meaning in 
my keeping watch like this, once school is over. Everyone has 
already gone home.” 

“.. .So this dangerous being you’ve been going on about is 
one of the students?” I found myself asking. 

Boogiepop nodded, “Most likely.” 

“What is it, exactly?” 

“It is better if you don’t know.” 

“Why?” 

“Because it is too dangerous. If you know more, 
something might happen to you. I would prefer to keep 
Miyashita Touka’s lover out of harm’s way.” 

I know I’m repeating myself, but he really does keep 
saying this with her face and her voice. 

“If it’s that dangerous, I think I should know. That body 
doesn’t belong to you alone, you know.” Even as I spoke, part 
of me was arguing that I shouldn’t take this guy seriously. 
Clearly, this was all just a paranoid delusion, caused by some 






Boogiepop and Others I 47 


bizarre psychological disease, brought about by an instability in 
Touka’s mind.. .yet the creature before me was Touka and not 
Touka at the same time. I couldn’t think otherwise. 

Boogiepop sighed. “All right, but don’t tell anyone else.” 

“Right,” I replied, swallowing hard. I steeled myself for 
anything. 

But his words were too simple, and caught me by surprise. 

“It’s a man-eater.” 

After I called Touka’s house, I slumped dejectedly on my 
bed. 

My head was a mess. 

A split personality? 

The school.. .no, the entire world was in danger? 

What the hell?! 

As delusions went, it was pretty damn delusional. It was 
like one of those crazy school-bound RPGs. 

(But I don’t want to exactly go and drag Touka off to 
some psych ward...) 

Boogiepop had said Touka forgets everything. So, in a 
worst-case scenario, even if we went to a hospital and had a 
doctor look at her, Boogiepop might never even appear. That 
would make her seem like the sane one, while whoever took 
her would come off looking like a complete idiot. 

On the way home from school, I had bought a paperback 
t ailed The Scream Inside - Multiple Personality Disorder, so I 
decided to delve into it now. I’d just grabbed the easiest 
looking one, but to my surprise, there had been an entire 
section in the bookstore on psychological disorders. Surely, 



48 I Kouhei Kadono 


the world was crazy enough already without all these diseases, 
I thought. 

The writer wrote in a very conversational tone, so it was 
readable enough, but the sentences were filled with difficult 
words that left my head spinning. I did catch the phrase, “This 
disease is exceedingly rare—if not almost unheard of—in Japan.” 

As far as I could tell, multiple personality disorder generally 
arises when someone is trapped in an oppressive situation and 
unable to cope with reality, shifting their emotions onto another 
personality in an attempt to create a new life. “The human psyche 
is open to the possibilities of both good and evil. In my opinion, 
multiple personality disorder occurs when one of these 
possibilities, suppressed by societal pressures, declares 
independence and begins to fight to exist. Regardless of how 
diseased the result or how destructive it is on the host body and 
those around it, the possibility makes no distinction between good 
or evil.” There was a lot of stuff like this where I kind of 
understood what I was reading, but at the same time, I didn't. 
Apparently in Japan, the basis for this type of action usually didn’t 
have a clear form, which meant that the vast majority of incidents 
would result in schizophrenia rather than multiple personality 
disorder. To me, it’s like talking about the difference between 
‘God’ and ‘The Universe.’ 

The author’s name was Kirima Seiichi. There wasn’t an 
author’s profile attached to the book, so I had no way of telling 
who he was or what his credentials were. But somehow, what I'd 
readjust felt right. 

(Then what sort of possibility was Boogiepop? What had 
suppressed him?) 

I flopped back onto bed and stared at the ceiling. 

‘Do you think to do nothing when you see a fellow human 





Boogiepop and Others I 49 


crying ?! ’ 

Those words rang through my head again. For some 
reason, I just couldn’t stop thinking about them. 

“.. .So that’s what it said. What do you think?” I asked 
Boogiepop. It was the next day after school, and we were both 
on the roof again. 

“A suppressed possibility? Hmm.. .not a bad explanation, I 
suppose.” 

Miyashita had not been in class, so I’d swung by the roof 
on the off chance he was around. It seemed as though he took 
over the moment classes ended. 

“But, in my case, I am not one of Miyashita Touka’s other 
possibilities.” 

“Then what are you?” 

“Good question. This world’s... ?” he said quite naturally. 

For a moment, I couldn’t grasp his meaning. It felt as though 
he hadn’t finished his sentence, but, instead, had just let it trail off. 
‘This world’s...?’ This world’s what? 

Ignoring my blank look, he forged on, “I have no 
autonomy. I have no idea what Miyashita Touka might be 
thinking. She may well have some possibility, some hidden 
desire that produced me. But that has nothing to do with me. I 
have no dreams. I have only my duty. I am here only to carry 
out my purpose.” 

“To save mankind?” 

“Yes.” 

“Why you?” 

“I do not know. I would like to,” Boogiepop sighed. 



50 I Kouhei Kadono 


staring up at the sky above his head. 

Not looking at me, he continued, “So you wish to ‘cure’ 
me then?” 

I jumped. Of course, part of me did want to. Miyashita Touka 
was my girlfriend. But I also felt it wasn’t something that I had to 
do. 

“Mm, no.. .1 dunno.” 

I wasn’t making a guarded answer to keep an eye on his 
reaction; I was genuinely not sure any more. It didn’t seem like 
his presence was hurting anyone. Touka herself remained 
blissfully unaware. 

(Only thing it actually interferes with is our dates.) 

“I admit it would be better if I did not exist. If only there 
were no need for me...” 

His profile was exactly like that of the girl I loved, and it 
looked somehow forlorn, so without thinking, I blurted out, “It 
must be hard for you...” 

Not exactly the way you react to the ravings of a 
delusional multiple personality, I admit. 

“Well, I’m hardly ever here, so...” 

I’d thought he might be angered by my awkward attempt at 
sympathy, but he responded quietly. Not crazy at all. 

The two of us looked up at the sky. It was cloudy. This time, 
there was no beautiful sunset.. .only darkness. There was a chill in 
the air, and it seemed as though cold rain might start falling at any 
second. It was the kind of day that dampens your spirit. 

“Can I ask you something?” 

“What’s that?” 

“The first time I saw you, what did you say to that homeless 
guy?’ 

“Nothing important.” 




Boogiepop and Others I 51 


“How did you make him stop crying?” 

“I just gave him the encouragement he needed. Every 
person needs help when they’re suffering.” 

“He needed help? How did you know?” 

“He was crying. You could tell he was suffering just by 
looking at him,” he said plainly, like it was the most obvious 
thing in the world. 

“But.. .but...” I sputtered, then sighed. “The rest of us 
ordinary people can’t understand that way of thinking.” Even 
as I said it, I felt pathetic. 

“You’re a good man,” Boogiepop suddenly said. 

“Huh?” 

“I think I know what Miyashita Touka sees in you.” 

“Please don’t say things like that with her face. When I 
meet her tomorrow, I won’t know what to do...” I said, realizing 
that this meant I had completely accepted Boogiepop as an 
i ndependent existence. 

Boogiepop made a strange expression. Beneath the low 
brim of his hat, his left eye narrowed and the right side of his 
mouth twisted upwards. It was a very asymmetrical expression 
that Touka herself would never make. 

“Don’t worry. I am me, and she is herself.” 

Later, I wondered if that expression was a strained sort of 
grin, but at the time, it baffled me. It was a sort of grin that 
seemed both sarcastic and somewhat diabolical at the same 

time. 

I never did see him smile, though. 






A 

XA.fter that, it became routine to join Boogiepop on the 
roof every day as he ‘kept watch.’ 

“I’m not really part of my class anymore,” I complained to 
him. 

“You aren’t taking exams?” 

“No, my father knows someone who owns a design firm, so 
I’ve been working there part time. He said that I had good sense 
and that I shouldn’t bother with college. That I’d be better off just 
starting to work for him directly.” 

“The boss’ favorite craftsman, then.” 

Touka had once said, “Are you sure? Sounds risky to 
me...” but Boogiepop sounded impressed. 

Happily, I enthused, “Exactly, a craftsman. That’s what a 
designer is, really. We make what we’ve been asked to make.” 

“Seems like you’ve got both feet on the ground,” 
Boogiepop said, sounding almost jealous. He lived half in 
some unearthly realm that only he could see. 

“But Miyashita thinks it sounds dangerous.” 



Boogiepop and Others I 53 


“She would. I don’t know her all that well, but there are 
far more girls who shun romantic men than there are those who 
are attracted to them.” 

“Really? I mean, romantic?” It was an embarrassing word. 

“I have no such hopes, but I believe humans need some 
sort of dream. Am I wrong?” Boogiepop always looked 
especially serious when he said things like this. 

“I dunno,” I muttered. 

“When you have no dream, when you can’t imagine a 
future, that means something in this world is flawed. Unfortunately, 
it is not I who will battle that flaw, but you and Miyashita Touka,” 
the self-described defender of the world said, staring into the 
distance. 

Based only on his words, and on his outfit, it was 
impossible to think of him as anything but a clown. After all, 
lie had a woman’s face, but he talked like a man. 

But I thought if he was a clown, then I wanted to be a 

clown too. 

Being with him, talking with him, I could see no traces of 
fouka anywhere. What had happened to her to make him 
appear? 

“When did you first come out?” I asked, one day. 

“About five years ago. Miyashita’s parents were fighting, 
considering divorce. Her uncertain feelings at the time may 
have produced a stubborn creature like me. But I, myself, was 
far too busy fighting a killer that was stalking the streets to 
really pay much attention.” 

I had a hunch which killer he was talking about. Five years 


54 I Kouliei Kadono 


ago, a serial killer had murdered five girls, and hung himself 
when it seemed they were about to catch him. It was a very 
well-known story, so it made sense for it to be incorporated 
into his delusion. 

“Miyashita’s mother sounded like she knew about you.. 

“Mm, she’s seen me a few times. We’re talking back in 
Junior High, after all. Miyashita Touka was not exactly free to 
move around. She even caught me climbing out the window 
once.” 

“Must have been surprised.” 

“She was hysterical, which caused me no end of trouble. 
She locked me in the house, so I had to knock the woman out 
to make my escape. Danger was approaching, after all.” 

“Seriously?” No wonder her mother was freaked. It also 
explained why the Miyashita household didn’t let her have a 
phone in her room. 

“After that, I suspect Miyashita Touka was dragged off to 
a psychologist, but I can only speculate. I never appeared.” 

“She didn’t show any.. .unusual signs?” 

Since the condition was almost unheard of in Japan, the 
doctor probably didn’t believe a word of it. 

“Probably not. I imagine they had their doubts about the 
mother, though. After all, they were having marital problems 
at the time. But apparently, the whole fuss caused her father to 
blame himself and make amends. Things settled down after 
that.” 

“Hmmm...” This reminded me of something from the 
book I’d read. Not a multiple personality case, but a manic- 
depressive girl. At school, she never spoke a word to anyone, but 
she was always bright and happy at home. Her parents and 
grandparents were apathetic and cold, and she desperately 


Boogiepop and Others I 55 


tried to brighten up the gloomy atmosphere. Unfortunately, the 
stress was too much for her, and its effects started to manifest 
externally. Her behavior grew stranger and stranger, until 
finally she was taken to a doctor and the truth came out. She 
was treated, her family repented, and the house became a much 
more peaceful place. This sort of “peace making” 
psychological disorder is apparently referred to as “the 
Trickster.” 

For some reason, it sounded a lot like Boogiepop to me. 

“So,” I said, and explained all this to him. 

He made that strange expression again. “Miyashita Touka 
may well see it that way.” 

“But you’re still here, even though that situation is over. Why? 
You never come out at home any more, right?” 

“Right.” 

“Then why?” 

“I can’t explain it. I simply have my duty to fulfill.” 

“You’ll just disappear when this ‘danger’ is over?” 

“Yes. I will be a little sad to go this time, though. I won’t 
lie able to see you again.” 

This surprised me. 

“You won’t...?” 

“Right. Miyashita Touka will be here, of course. I imagine 
you prefer her,” his shoulders slumped a little. 

I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I remained silent. 

The two of us stared quietly up at the evening sky. 

Boogiepop began to whistle. The tune was fast and bright, 
his breathing skillfully alternating fast and slow, but it was a 
whistle, so it sounded rather sad somehow. 

I remembered that Touka couldn’t whistle. 

(A suppressed possibility... ?) 





56 I Kouhei Kadono 


Even as her boyfriend, I suppose I was suppressing some 
part of her. 

This thought weighed heavily on me. 

He finished whistling, and I applauded. “You’re good. 
What song is that?” 

“Overture to the first act of “Die Meistersinger von 
Numberg.”” 

“Of what?” 

“The most flamboyant piece this noisily, romantic, old 
composer Wagner ever wrote.” 

“Classical? Hunh. Thought it was rock...” 

“You’d have preferred “Atom Heart Mother”? I tend to 
like the old music,” he said, narrowing one eye. 

All of our twilight ramblings passed in this fashion. 




One day, Kamikishiro was gone. She just stopped 
coming to school. 

I didn’t know much, but it seemed that she had run away. 

“You’re kidding?” I said as I heard the news. 

“Really! The teacher told us. She hasn’t come home,” one 
of the girls in class said calmly. 

“Why? Why would she run away?” 

“I don’t know. That girl hardly ever talked to us. I bet she 
i bought her pretty face would let her get by in Tokyo or 
something,” the girl snorted. 

The girls in class were much less expressive than 
kamikishiro, who was always laughing and joking. 

“B-but.. .she had good grades. She looked like she was 
ready to pass the entrance exam for the college that she wanted 
logo to, right?” 

“You sure know a lot about her.” 

“What, did you have a thing for her, Takeda-kun?” 

“It’s not like that. Still...” I started to say. 



58 I Kouhei Kadono 


The leader of the girls in class, Sasaki, said quietly, “I 
think I know how she felt. Ultimately, she just wanted to 
escape.” 

“Escape? From what?” I asked, surprised. Kamikishiro had 
two boyfriends, one a first year, one in second year. I wondered if 
she was escaping them. 

But Sasaki meant something else. “You wouldn’t 
understand, Takeda-kun.” 

“Why not?” 

“Because you don’t have exams. How could you possibly 
understand the pressure?” 

I had no defense against that argument. 

“Right, you can’t understand.” 

“Yeah, yeah.” 

The other girls joined in, almost accusatory. 

The other students weren’t watching us directly, but they 
weren’t not watching, either. They just sort of sat around us, 
flipping through their vocabulary flashcards. 

“I’d run away if I could. But I can’t. We’re not as 
irresponsible as Kamikishiro,” Sasaki said very coldly. 

Everyone nodded. 

Not one of them appeared to be the least bit worried about 

her. 

“... When you see a fellow human crying, ” I heard 
Boogiepop’s voice whisper in my ear. 

The teacher arrived. We stopped talking and went back to 
our seats. 

I could barely manage to sit through class. 

The guy in front of me was studying something else. 
Everyone was only in class for their transcripts; all of them 
were certain that their test scores were far more important than 







Boogiepop and Others I 59 


learning itself. Even the teachers agreed, so they just lectured 
tediously, never calling on anyone, never asking if there were 
any questions. 

Why the hell were we even here? 

What had happened to Kamikishiro? Had her cheery 
exterior been a lie? I thought it was sometimes, but I didn’t 
think she was the sort of girl to just up and run away. 

“For those of you who know no tomorrow. ” 

But even so, I was just like the people around me. I knew 
nothing. 

I hadn’t even known that Touka was possessed by this 
Boogiepop guy. 

I didn’t listen to the teacher for the rest of class, and I sure 
as hell didn’t take any notes. For all my complaints, I was 
even less serious about this than the people taking exams. 
Without any purpose, I just sat there stewing. 

That day, Boogiepop wasn’t waiting on the roof. 

66 5 ? 

I waited for him a while, but eventually the sun set, and I 
had to give up and go home. 

When I climbed up to the roof the next day, Boogiepop 
was waiting for me, but this time in a girl’s school uniform; 
no strange costume. 






60 I Konhei Kadono 


“Hey,” he said, raising his hand. This gesture is how I 
knew it was him. Otherwise, I would have taken him for 
Touka. 

“No costume?” 

“Don’t need it any more. So she didn’t bring it with her.” 

He had explained once before that Touka would 
unconsciously carry it around with her, but I hadn’t ever thought 
anything of it until now. 

“What do you mean?” 

“The danger is over,” he said flatly. 

“Eh?” 

“Everything’s finished, Takeda-kun.” 

“W-wait! That’s so...” 

“That’s all there is to it. That’s the way I’m made. When 
the danger is gone, I disappear. Like bubbles.” 

“The danger.. .weren’t you going to save the world? It 
hasn’t been saved at all!” 

“But my job is finished. What you mean by ‘save’ is not 
my job,” he said, shaking his head quietly. 

“But you said you were going to fight the devil that lives 
in this school!” 

“I did. I’m not the one that killed it, though...” 

My mouth flapped wordlessly. I couldn’t think of anything 
else to say. “But.. .but.. .that’s...” 

“Thank you, Takeda-kun,” Boogiepop suddenly bowed 
his head. “I enjoyed my time with you. Until now, I had never 
done anything but fight. You’re the first person I could really 
call a friend. Perhaps you only spent time with me because I’m 
part of Miyashita Touka, but I had fun. I mean it.” 

a ?? 

I suddenly realized just how much I liked him. 





Boogiepop and Others I 61 


I’d liked him since we first met in town. 

And not because he had Touka’s face. 

Everything I wanted to say but couldn’t express.. .he 
could and would at the drop of a hat. That’s why I liked him 
so much. 

“Don’t go.” 

“Eh?” 

“Don’t go anywhere. You’re about the only friend I have. 
I’d really like to keep meeting you,” I hung my head, almost 
whispering. I may have been crying. 

Boogiepop made that face again. 

“That’s not true, Takeda-kun.” 

“It is!” 

“You simply aren’t connecting with the world around you 
right now.” 

I stopped breathing. 

“Miyashita Touka’s worried about you too. Don’t let 
yourself think you’re the only one who’s worried.” 

“But.. .but what about you? If you just vanished without 
anyone the wiser, doesn’t that make you sad?” 

“You’re the wiser, aren’t you?” 

“But I’m...” 

“I’m afraid you and Miyashita Touka have your job to do, 
lust as I have my duty. You two have to make your own 
world. You don’t have time to waste belittling yourself,” 
Boogiepop said curtly. 

There was nothing left for me to say. I hung my head and 
si uttered, “B-but...” 

When I looked up.. .there was nobody there. 

Startled, I raced across the roof. 

But there was no sign of him anywhere. 




62 I Kouliei Kadono 


Just like the first time I saw him, he’d vanished in the 
wind. 

When I came down the fire escape, I found Miyashita 
waiting for me at the bottom. 

I could tell instantly that it wasn’t him. When she looked at 
me, she smiled. 

“You’re late, Takeda-sempai!” she said, in a voice that 
seemed to tumble. 

“Eh...” 

“You told me to wait here? And then you show up late, 
you big meany.” 

I was taken aback. Then, it hit me. 

‘She doesn’t know anything.’ 

‘She doesn’t even notice that she doesn’t know. Her 
memories are automatically corrected.’ 

That explained it. 

She had automatically created a reason for her to be here. 

“Ah, uh.. .s-sorry. I bumped into a friend.” 

“On the roof? Were you called out by the school thugs?” 

“Does our school even have any?” 

“Good point,” she laughed. 

Suddenly, I felt a great affection for her. “You got cram 
school today?” 

“Yeah, at five.” 

“I’ll walk you to the station.” 

She looked surprised. “Leave school together?” 

“Hey, I’m on the discipline committee.” 

“You sure?” 



Boogiepop and Others I 63 


“The gate guards are all my kouhai. They’ll let us by.’’ 

I didn’t let her squirm out of it, but we didn’t hold hands 
or anything. 

Niitoki was watching the gate. For some reason, the 
school’s problem child, Kirima Nagi, fresh off from 
suspension the previous Friday, was standing next to her. 

She was slim and tall, and all the guys said she was as pretty 
as a model, but she looked a little harsh to me. 

She was the polar opposite of Niitoki, and I was surprised 
to see them acting so friendly towards one another. When they 
stood next to each other, they looked like sisters with years 
between them, or perhaps a mother and child who were closer in 
age. 

“Oh, sempai” Niitoki said, smiling despite seeing her 
classmate Touka standing next to me. 

“Hey,” I grunted. 

“Hmm. So, you’re Miyashita Touka,” said Kirima Nagi 
abruptly, suddenly standing right in front of her. 

“Y-yes...” 

“I’m Kirima. Nice to meet you,” she said, thrusting out her 
hand. She sounded more like a man. 

“Hey!” I said, butting in, but Touka bobbed her head and 

took the offered hand. 

Kirima Nagi made a wry smile that reminded me of 
I loogiepop, and walked on by. 

While we were still stunned, Niitoki said, “Come on now, 
srmpai, Miyashita-san. Run your cards through.” 

We did as we were told and exited the school. 

The road was covered in fallen leaves. 

“These maple leaves look so beautiful when they’re 
billing, but once they've fallen, they're just a mess,” Touka said. 





64 I Kouhei Kadono 


walking carefully to avoid getting them stuck to her shoes. 

“Mm, but they’re still lovely when they fall.” 

“That your opinion as a designer?” 

“Not really.” 

“I’m jealous of you, you know,” Touka pouted as she 
suddenly started stomping through the leaves. 

“H-hey...” 

“I’ve got to take a quiz on idioms today. I hate it.” The 
leaves squelched beneath her feet as if she were tap dancing. 

“You say that, but—” 

“But I’m still going to college,” she interrupted, still 
keeping her face turned away from mine, slopping through the 
leaves. “No matter what you say.” 

“What I say?” I couldn’t remember saying anything 
against it. 

“You went and decided what you were going to do all by 
yourself. You’re all confident now. Like you’re snickering at 
the rest of us.” 

“That’s what...” I was about to say, ‘Everyone else was 
doing,’ but she looked up at me seriously, and I bit my tongue. 

“That was pretty stressful, you know. I thought it was 
going to eat me alive. But I’m over that now. Finished with it.” 

She looked up. 

I was surprised. 

She looked just like Boogiepop. 

“To tell you the truth, sempai, I remember standing you up 
that Sunday.” 

“Eh?” 

“But I wanted to mess with your mind a bit. Sorry,” she 
said, and bowed her head. 

Her movements were Touka’s. There was no hint of 








Boogiepop and Others I 65 


Boogiepop. 

(It can’t be...) 

Her anxiety had called out Boogiepop? 

Was that the ‘devil in the school?’ 

Does that mean—that I had defeated it? 

She had told me of her worries through Boogiepop, and 
she no longer needed to be afraid. The ‘danger’ had passed. 

I stopped in my tracks. My eyes were wide. Touka was 
staring at her shoes. “They’re all dirty now,” she said. 

She giggled then, sheepishly. 

Boogiepop had said he had no dreams. He never laughed. 
“Eh heh heh.” 

I looked at Touka’s pretty, cheerful smile, and thought, 
Boogiepop can’t do that. 

It’s our job to laugh. 




Interlude 


Backing the story up a little... 

C 

k_/omewhere between day and night, in a dim, gloomy 
room, a girl lay on her side, without a stitch of clothing on her. 
She wasn’t moving. 

The Manticore stood next to her. 

The room was silent. 

Slowly, elegantly, it stooped over the fallen girl. 

It brushed aside the girl’s hair, and kissed her on the 
forehead. 

It moved down to her nose, then her chin, neck, chest, 
stomach, and abdomen, licking each of them, leaving a thin blue 
trail. Everywhere its saliva touched changed color. 

When it had licked the girl all over, the Manticore moved 
its mouth away. 

The girl’s body began to change. 

All over the surface of her skin, snap, snap, thin cracks tore 
open. 




Boogiepop and Others I 67 


44 »» 

The Manticore watched in silence. 

At last, the girl’s body crumbled inwards, like a mud 

sculpture left in the sun. 

A purple smoke rose into the air. 

The Manticore sucked the smoke into its mouth. 

The smoke rose and rose, but the Manticore never stopped 
breathing it in, like a fish tank with the plug removed, sucking 
it all away. Its throat moved, swallowing it down. 

When it had swallowed the last puff, the Manticore ran its 
longue over its beautiful, lipstick red lips. 

A drop of liquid slipped from the comer of its mouth and 
rolled off its chin. This drop of liquefied smoke was the color of 
blood and flesh. 

There was no other trace of the girl, or of the smoke. 

Oh ho ho! 

Oh ho ho! 

Oh ho ho ho ho ho...! 

In the darkness, the Manticore laughed. 

Her name was ancient Persian, and it meant ‘Man-Eater.’ 

That delicate laugh bloomed like a morning rose, 
ii iumphantly extolling its evil. 













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1 . 


X^ecently, a strange rumor, or rather, a bit of a ghost 
story, has been spreading among the girls of the second year 
classes. 

It’s something about the mysterious Boogiepop. 

Boogiepop is short, wears a black cape, and has a tall hat 
that’s sort of like the one Maetel wore in Galaxy Express 999, 

(>nly narrower. He’s an assassin, and he can kill people instantly, 
without pain. He always does so when you are at your most 
beautiful, before you start to wither away, before you grow old 
and ugly. 

Nobody knows where he’s from, but most people seem to 
agree that he has something to do with the string of missing 
high school girls in the area. 

Everyone wants to believe that the runaways were killed 
by an assassin that wanders in the shadows, fleeting as the 
morning mist.. .instead of running off to Tokyo or some other 
giim reality. 






72 I Kouhei Kadono 


Reality is always rather dreary. When people vanish from 
it, it’s natural to want to connect them to some sort of fantasy, 
to some other world. 

“Hey, Suema, what was the actual case that inspired The 
Village of Eight GravesT asked the girl in front of me, 
Kinoshita Kyoko, looking up from her crossword puzzle. I 
was eating my lunch one day shortly after the end of summer 
vacation. 

“The Tsuyama Thirty,” I said, without a second’s thought. 

“Hunh, Tsuyama Thirty.. .hey, it fits. Thanks.” 

Everyone eating with us was staring at me. “How did you 
know that?” 

“You are obsessed .” 

“Don’t be stupid, everyone knows that.''’ 

“We don’t! Nobody does!” 

“There was a book on it out last month,” I replied, in a 
knowing manner as if to brush them off. 

“We didn’t read it! Why would we?” 

“You’re a little scary, Kazuko.” 

Everyone cackled. 

“What kind of person can murder someone?” Kyoko asked, 
suddenly looking up from her crossword again. 

“What kind? All kinds.” 

“I mean, like, who in this class seems likely to?” she said, 
lowering her voice. 

“Oooh, do tell, do tell!” Everyone leaned closer. 

“Uhhh, someone a little stiff, like they’re off in their own 
little world and are kinda stubborn when it comes to stuff?” 
Even as I said it, I knew I might as well be saying her name. 

“So.. .Kirima Nagi?” Yep, first name out; the most 
notorious student in our class. She was skipping today, 






Boogiepop and Others I 73 


apparently; no sign of her all morning. 

“Hmm, well, she’s not normal, that’s for sure.” 

“Not normal? The Fire Witch is six kinds of crazy!” 

“She’s skipped two days since the new term started. 
Wonder if she’ll even bother coming tomorrow...” 

“She might as well not. Even when she does come, she 
causes trouble the moment she steps through the gates and 
gets herself sent right back home.” 

“Kya ha ha! Sounds like her!” 

“So far as killing goes, I hear she actually is.” 

“How so?” 

“You know, one slip and you miss your period...” 

“Ah!” 

“Then she gets herself suspended before anyone notices 
and takes care of it...” 

“I believe it!” 

There was no evidence at all, but that didn’t stop them 
from talking. 

Everyone was laughing, though, so I laughed with them. 

I didn’t hate her like they did. 

Sure, she was trouble. But there was something about the 
way that she looked at people that was pretty cool; the way she 
didn’t seem to care whether you were older or even a teacher, 
but j ust looked straight at you. 

“She’s got no parents, right?” 

“Yeah, like, they live abroad or something? You heard she 
was the top scorer on the entrance exam, right? But she wasn’t 
ilie speaker at the entrance ceremony. Know why?” 

“Why?” 

“Her guardian’s name isn’t Kirima.” 

“She’s illegitimate?” 




74 I Kouhei Kadono 


“Yeah. She just gets money and lives by herself in some 
apartment.” 

“No way...” 

“So, she can do whatever she wants. Bring a different guy 
home every day, or like Suema says, ‘Start killing.’ She could 
have a mountain of bodies at her place, and no one would ever 
know.” 

“In the freezer?” 

“All frozen up.” 

“Thaws them out and cooks them!” 

“Ew, gross!” 

Everyone laughed again. 

I went along with them. 

We laughed a bit too loud and Yurihara-san, who was 
sitting nearby, looked up from her study guide and glared at 
us. She was the best student in the class.. .and in the running 
for top of the school. I’d heard she’d taken practice tests at her 
cram school, and outscored students from the best schools in 
town three times running. She was also beautiful.. .and a little 
stuck up; meaning that she had no friends in our class. Even 
though she might’ve felt a little out of our league, she 
somehow knew that all it took was a cold glance to quiet us 
down. 

“Maybe Nagi is Boogiepop?” Kyoko said. 

“Ew, no. Boogiepop’s a beautiful boy.” 

At the time, that was my first encounter with that name, so 
I felt myself compelled to ask about it. 

“You don’t know? But he’s a killer!” 

“It’s not like I know everything.” 

They filled me in, but I’m into criminal psychology, and 
this was just some school horror story. God, it was beyond 


Boogiepop and Others I 75 

absurd. They made it out to be less of a serial killer and more 
like some crazed monster. 

“Hmm.. .that’s kinda scary.” Everyone was watching, so I 
had to pretend to be alarmed. 

“Kind of a turn-on, huh? Wonder how he kills them?” With 
that, they all started babbling away, swooning over this fantasy 
man of theirs. 

Did he strangle them? Run them through with a knife? 

' They kept suggesting rather time-consuming methods of killing, 
and I started to get irritated. 

“Can we get your expert opinion?” Kyoko asked 
leasingly, suddenly turning to me. 

“Sure.. .poison gas.” 

“Ew, like Sarin?” They all said at once. 

“Nah, hydrocyanic acid gas. It’s colorless and invisible, 
but very poisonous, and it kills you instantly. You can spray it on 
someone, and it vanishes quickly, leaving no evidence. The 
body isn’t even dirty. Smells like peaches.” 

“Hunh... ?” Everyone was staring at me, slightly creeped 
out. 

‘Oops,’ I thought. 

I’d done it again. I knew full well this kind of knowledge 
wouldn’t interest them. 

At this point, the class lady killer, Kimura-kun, came over and 
said, "What’s up?" Everyone replied, "Nothing..." Apparently the 
I loogiepop stories were being kept secret from the boys. 

A myth only the girls knew. It seemed I was the last one in 
class to hear about it. 

1 always am. 

a ?? 

That depressed me a little, so I only half listened to their 





76 I Kouhei Kadono 


conversation, nodding when it seemed appropriate. 

My interest in criminal and abnormal psychology stems 
from a personal experience I had. 

Five years ago, in seventh grade, I was almost killed. 

There was a serial killer hiding in our town, and he killed 
himself just when the police were about to catch him. 

The killer took sexual pleasure in killing, which is freaky 
enough, but among the notes that he left behind was one with my 
address and a detailed account of the route that I took to school. 

Had he not killed himself, it turns out that I would’ve been 
his next victim. 

The police investigated my family to see if they had any 
connection to the killer, just to be certain. Of course, we’d 
never even seen him before. My parents tried to keep it a 
secret from me, but I found out when the police started 
questioning me directly. 

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a shock. 

But more powerful than the shock was the unreal feeling that 
it gave me. 

My life had been in the hands of someone with no 
connection to me at all. I just couldn't wrap my head around the 
idea, which is exactly how I got interested in that sort of thing to 
begin with. 

I never told my friends why. 

I knew they would look at me differently if I did. “The 
psycho liked her,” they would say, which is more than a good 
enough reason to put me on the bullied list. It was a bit too harsh 
of a truth to laugh off. 

But just being interested in that sort of thing was enough to 
make me different, and the class tends to treat me like Doctor 
Murder, but it’s a far cry from being bullied. 














Boogiepop and Others I 77 


After lunch, we all went off to our fifth period classrooms. 

Even though I was in the science program, my next class 
was Modern Japanese, a subject that automatically got on my 
nerves. Our school let you choose between science and 
humanities concentrations in your second year, but even so, 
we had to complete one course from the other program during 
our second year. An absurd requirement, if you ask me. 

A friend from another class who was also forced to take 
Japanese walked across the covered walkway with me. 

I Isually, there were three of us, but Niitoki-san was at a 
meeting for the discipline committee today. 

As we walked, the PA came on that said, “.. .Miyashita 
Touka, second year, class C. Please, return to the infirmary at 
once. Miyashita Touka, second year, class C...” 

“Hunh, wonder where Touka went?” the girl next to me 
asked. She was in the same class. 

“She was in the infirmary?” 

“Yeah, she got sick at the start of fourth bell...” 

“Faking it?” 

“Mm.. .she is dating a senior...” 

“Skipping out for a date?” 

“Maybe. But dating is against the rules, so don’t tell 
N i itoki-san,” she said, putting her finger in front of her lips. 

I grimaced back at her. “I would never.” 

“They’re probably on the roof or something now...” she 
aid, glancing out the window. Suddenly, she let out a piercing 
•Iniek. 


Startled, I asked, “Wh-what?” 









78 I Kouliei Kadono 


“Th-th-th-there!” She pointed out the window, her finger 
trembling. 

“What?” 

“Boogiepop! On the roof!” 

“Eh?” I stuck my head out the window. 

But there was nothing. 

“Nothing there.” 

“There was! I saw it! It moved away!” 

“You sure it wasn’t somebody else? Miyashita-san?” 

“I don’t think so! It had a black hat on! Like a pipe!” she 
said, still in a panic. 

Clearly, she was seeing things, but nobody believes that 
when it happens to them. Reverse psychology was more 
effective. If I pretended to believe her, she would start listening 
to me. 

“Okay. Let’s go see,” I said, and she spun to stare at me in 
horror. 

“Hunh?” 

“If Boogiepop is real, then I want to see him.” 

“No! Don’t! It’s dangerous!” 

“Don’t worry. Go ahead, I’ll meet you in class.” 

I headed for the roof. 

I ran up almost all of the stairs, and I was pretty out of breath 
by the time that I reached the door. 

But the door to the roof was locked. Oh, right; they had 
belatedly sealed it off after someone had thrown themselves 
off. 

I peered out the window. I could see most of the roof, but 
there was nobody there. 

When I got down the stairs, she was waiting for me, 
looking worried. 



Boogiepop and Others I 79 


“Wha-what happened?” 

“Nothing there.” 

“Really?” 

“Yep. I looked everywhere.” 

“Hunh. I guess I must have imagined it...” she said, 
relieved. 

“I guess,” I replied, surprised to find myself disappointed. 
As we headed to class, it occurred to me that there was a fire 
i-scape at the back of the roof, and if someone had gone down 
I hat, I wouldn’t have been able to see them. But it was too late 
lo go check now. 

Nothing like that happened again, and our peaceful, safe 
lives dragged on. 





c 

“k-Jay, Suema, what are murderers thinking?” Kyoko 
suddenly asked me, one day late in fall, as we were on our 
way home from school. 

“Eh, why?” 

The two of us were walking along the bank of the river. 
Kyoko and I were the only two members of our circle of 
friends that walked to school, so we always went home 
together. Most students take the bus to school. Hardly anyone 
walks, so there was no one but us on the street. 

“Oh, no reason,” Kyoko dried up. 

“You’re always asking me stuff like that recently. What’s 
up?” 

“Oh, nothing. Never mind.” 

But there had to be a reason for it. 

“Tell me.” 

“You see...” Kyoko whispered very quietly. 

“Yeah?” 


“She’s suspended now, right?” 


Boogiepop and Others I 81 


“Hunh? Oh, you mean Kirima-san?” 

Two weeks ago, she’d been suspended for smoking on 
school grounds. She was due back the next day, though. 

“Do you think.. .she would really kill someone?” 

“Hah?” I doubted my own ears. Sure, she was the odd girl 
out, but Nagi was still our classmate. She hardly deserved to be 
called a murderer. 

“What are you talking about?” 

“You said it yourself.. .when was it? We were eating 
lunch...” 

That had been a long time ago. I had completely forgotten. 

“Uh, did I? I might have...” 

“Do you really think so?” Kyoko was creepily serious. 

“Even if I did say that, it was just an example,” I hastily 
explained. 

Kyoko’s expression didn’t change. “The girl is scary.” 

“Well, I’ll grant that she’s not easy to get to know...” 

“She did something to this girl I know. She hasn’t been the 
same since,” her voice trembled. She meant it. She wasn’t 
k idding. 

“Something? What?” 

“Threatened her, I think.” 

“For money?” 

Kyoko shook her head. “No, not money. She’s rich, you 
know.” 

“Yeah. She has her own apartment. Then what?” 

Kyoko didn’t answer. 

Like anyone on earth would, I told her that I could keep a 
secret, but she still didn't say anything, so I asked, “Does it have 
anything to do with why Kirima got suspended?” 

“I don’t know...” 


82 I Kouhei Kadono 


“You don’t know?” 

“I feel like she got herself suspended because of it .. 

Kyoko said, but I didn’t follow. 

Come to think of it, Nagi had not been suspended for 
smoking, but for having a cigarette in her lips. 

And the place where she’d been caught—the teacher’s 
restroom. It would have been extremely strange if she had not 
been caught. A female teacher had found her, and Nagi had 
glared at her so fiercely that the she fled and got a male 
teacher, making quite a fuss. 

She made no excuses. Or apologies. 

She never did. 

I had never once heard her say ‘sorry’ during all the times that 
the teachers had yelled at her. 

One time, a teacher scolded her for staring out the window, 
and Nagi had curtly quipped, “You’re boring.” However, her 
grades were too good for the teachers to take any drastic 
measures. 

Still, she skipped a lot. 

We’re not just talking leaving a bell early, either. No, she 
would drop the whole day; never even come to school.. .for 
three days mnning! Yet when she came back, she knew 
everything that we had covered while she was gone, and she 
could answer any question that the teachers threw at her. 

Nobody knew what she did when she wasn’t in school 
and no one ever had the guts to ask. 

She was enigmatic and more than a little scary, so 
somewhere along the line her nickname became “The Fire Witch.” 
Word had it that this was because she knew some form of black 
magic, like the “Karma Dance,” which sounded plausible enough. 

Even so, it was hard to imagine that she had intentionally 



Boogiepop and Others I 83 


gotten herself suspended. Suspensions went on your 
permanent transcript. 

“That’s going a bit overboard,” I told Kyoko, but she 
didn’t answer. 

She stared up into the air, muttering, “She’s gonna kill 
me...” 

This I could not ignore. “Why? What for?” 

Suddenly, Kyoko’s entire body shuddered once, then 
froze. “Eeeeee!” 

I followed her line of sight. 

There was a girl standing on the road a short distance from 
us. She had been sitting on the bank, and stood up when we 
approached. 

She wore an old, worn leather jacket and thick leather 
pants. There were metallic guards on her knees and elbows, like 
what bikers wear. Her slightly wavy hair was bound in a 
bandanna, and beneath her eyebrows, her eyes were less 
g I i ttering than gleaming. She glared at us... at Kyoko. 

“I’ve been waiting for you, Kinoshita Kyoko,” she said, in her 
i listinctive manly voice. 

It was the suspended Kirima Nagi, in the flesh. 

“No! Ahhh!” Kyoko screamed. 

She fled behind me, shoving me towards Nagi. 

Reeling, I almost smacked right into Nagi as she ran 
lowards us. 

But Nagi slid by me without so much as a glance in my 
direction and took off after Kyoko. 

“W-wait!” I yelled as I hurriedly gave chase, but Nagi 
was fast. Looking closely, she was wearing big black boots. I 
(bought they were rubber at first, but I was wrong. These were 
steel-toed work boots, the kind that construction workers wear. 



84 I Kouhei Kadono 


The kind that can’t be crushed, even if several tons fall on j 

them. Kick someone with these, and they might as well die. 1 

This was clearly not a fashion statement. It was a level 

beyond biker wear or air sneakers. 

The bag on her back was strapped to her body, and didn’t 
budge as she ran. It was like... I 

(.. .like she was dressed for combat?!) 

No normal high school girl would ever dress like that. Not J 
even a gang member. 

She looked more like a hitman. 

“H-help me!” Kyoko yelled. j 

Nagi snarled back, “You call for help, and you’ll have to talk 
to the cops!” 

That shut Kyoko up. She stopped in her tracks. I 

That was enough for Nagi; she closed the distance j 

between them, and tackled her mercilessly from behind. Both j 
girls hit the ground, sliding down the river bank. 

Wheezing, I caught up to them to find Nagi twisting j 

Kyoko’s arm behind her. It looked just like a hold from something 
I'd seen on TV, like judo or kung fu. Kyoko couldn’t move a j 

muscle. We clearly hadn’t learned this sort of wrestling at school, i 
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Let go!” 

“Want me to go ahead and break it? Even you’ll take some 
time to heal then, eh, Manticore?!” 

I have no idea what she meant by that. j I 

“No, don’t! I’ll never do it again, I swear!” Kyoko shrieked. 
“Stop that, Kirima-san!” I cried, jumping on her, but she | 

kicked me away. 

She spoke to Kyoko again, “It’s not just me. Echoes is 
looking for you too! Keep pretending and you’ll lose an arm! And 

then, you won’t have any hope of winning!” 








Boogiepop and Others I 85 


What on earth was she talking about? 

“I swear! I swear to God I’ll never do drugs again! Please 
don’t! Please!” Kyoko sobbed. Drugs? 

“I know you killed Kusatsu Akiko! Don’t lie to me!” Nagi 
roared. 

I thought my heart was gonna stop. 

Kusatsu Akiko—? 

That was the name of a first year girl who had gone 
missing. 

“I didn’t! I didn’t! It wasn’t me, I swear! She just gave me 
(he drugs!” 

There was an unpleasant popping sound from Kyoko’s 
arm. 

Kyoko’s eyes rolled up in her head. 

“.. .Damn, you’re normal!” Nagi snarled and let go. 

Kyoko rolled down the bank. 

“Kyoko!” I shouted, racing over to her and putting my arms 
around her. 

“Don’t worry. I stopped before the joint was destroyed. 

It’ll hurt for a few days and then be fine,” Nagi said. 

Kyoko was trembling. 

“What’s going on?!” I screamed. 

“You should ask Kinoshita herself, Suema-san,” Nagi 
replied, her voice completely serene. 

Kyoko’s teeth were chattering. She’d been scared half to 
death. Understandably; so had I. 

“This is going too far!” 

“But it’s better than getting arrested, right, Kinoshita?” 
Nagi said. Kyoko stiffened. “I hope you learn from this. Next 
lime, you’ll know better than to do stupid shit just because 
vourfriends doit.” 





86 I Kouhei Kadono 


She turned to leave. 

“Wait!” I yelled. 

Nagi looked at me, and said, “Suema-san, maybe it’s time 
to let go of what happened five years ago. Get too hung up on 
something like that and it’ll come back to haunt you.” 

Her gruff voice matched her boyish face perfectly. But that 
wasn’t the problem. 

“H-how did—?” 

How did she know I’d nearly been murdered five years 
ago?! 

“H-hold on a minute...” I tried to stop her, but the Fire Witch 
stalked away without another word. 





I had to swear to keep it a secret before Kyoko would 
lel 1 me anything. 

“We.. .we were at the same Junior High. We were all on 
die table tennis team. Even in Junior High, we hung out together, 
kusatsu was one of us, but a year younger. She was team captain 
when we were third years, so we sort of stopped thinking of her 
l hat way. 

“So, three months ago, Kusatsu called to say she had 
something good, and that everyone should hook up with her. 

“It was a weird sort of drug. 

“No, not uppers; I think it was something else. It was a sort 
o! bluish, see-through liquid. You took a sniff of it, and it was like 
your head opened up, like you became transparent, like every 
corner of your body was washed clean. 

“Glue? No.. .1 don't know, but it didn't have that strong of a 
smell. 

“Kusatsu didn’t tell us much, but she said some 
liharmaceutical company had created it as a test product. Yeah, 




88 I Kouhei Kadono 


it was probably bullshit. But, hey, it was free, so we all tried it 
out... 

“Right. She never charged us anything. 

“She was never exactly a generous person, so I’m not sure 
why... 

“And a little while later, people from our group started 
running away. 

“No, I don’t know where they went! They didn’t tell 
anyone. They just, you know, vanished. Yeah, girls from other 
schools too. 

“And then, Kusatsu vanished. By this point, the rest of us 
were starting to wonder if it had something to do with the 
drugs. We didn’t know where she got it, but maybe it was 
something nobody was supposed to know about it and they 
were taking us out. Then suddenly one of us announced that she 
wasn't gonna have anything to do with us any more. 

“This made us nervous. We had to know why. ■ 

“She said Kirima Nagi had threatened her. Somehow, she had 
found out about the drugs, and she had told her to never touch 
them again... i 

“Not just the one, though. She hit every girl.. .in order. I was 
the last one. 

“Started two weeks ago, right after she was suspended. 
That’s why I said she had intentionally gotten herself 
suspended—so she would have a good reason for not coming to 
school, and so that she could move freely. 1 

“No! I’m never touching drugs again! 

“Hunh? No way! Why would I know Kirima Nagi?! I’ve 
always avoided her up to now. j 

“Please, don’t tell anyone, Suema! Keep it a secret! I 
probably should never have told you either. But I had to. I just 








Boogiepop and Others I 89 


had to! 

Keeping quiet was just too frightening.. .it was crushing 
ine...” 

I held Kyoko, comforting her until she stopped crying. Then 
we killed some time in a booth at First Kitchen, so that her face 
could return to normal before I took her back home. 

It was night by then, and as I walked through the darkened 
streets, I thought things over. 

Her fragmented story suggested that she had only seen a 
small part of what was really going on. I couldn’t guess much 
from what she’d told me, but it sounded like she hadn’t been one 
< >1 the ringleaders of this group of ex-table tennis team players. 
More like she did whatever the much less stable girls told her to; 
lust a third wheel, hanging on to the cool kids. 

She wasn’t even a victim. She was just in the wrong place 
al the wrong time. 

Nagi had said Kusatsu Akiko had been killed... 

And she knew about my past. 

But...how? 

Who was she? 

Should I tell the school.. .or the police? 

(But I promised Kyoko...) 

If word got out that Kyoko had done drugs, that would be 
ii for her—she’d be finished. It wouldn’t end at suspension, 
cither; she’d be expelled as an example to the other students. I 
didn’t want to do that to her. 

It was very dark outside. 

The streetlight above me had clearly not been changed in 

years, and it was flickering madly. 

(( ?? 


I stopped walking. 









90 I Kouhei Kadono 


I opened my bag under the unsteady light, and thanks to my 
bad habit of carrying far too much stuff around with me all of the 
time, I was able to get out the class directory. It listed not only 
phone numbers, but also addresses. 

I looked up the address of the person three names before 
my own. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Kirima Nagi, like me, lived close 
to school. I could walk there. 

(Okay, let’s do it!) 

I snapped my bag closed and walked as fast as I could in 
that direction. 

But why did I have to meet her? 

Kyoko, who was actually part of it, was running away as 
fast as she could. That was the more natural reaction. Anyone 
normal would do the same. 

I was clearly a third party, and I had nothing to do with 
anything. 

But I didn’t like that. 

Five years ago, things had all happened without me 
knowing about them. I only found out when everything was 
finished. My own will played no part in the matter. 

If there was danger, I wanted to see it. 

That’s why I had chased after Boogiepop, even though 
there was clearly no such thing. It was all the same to me. I 
didn’t care what it was.. .1 just wanted to confront something. 

(No more blissful ignorance for me.) 

Kirima Nagi might really be a witch. I hoped she was. 





Boogiepop and Others I 91 


I was standing on the right street, but there were no 
apartment buildings, only houses. 

I checked the address again and again, but I was clearly in 
I he right place. 

But I couldn’t find any house with the name “Kirima” on 
I he gate. Checking the directory again, I noticed that it had 
“Taniguchi” written in very small characters next to it. She 
must live there. 

(.. .must be that guardian with the different name.) 

There was a house with “Taniguchi” on the gate, and the 
numbers seemed to match. 

It was a really normal-looking home, a ready-built house like 
any other. A little on the wealthy side, but normally so. 

Unable to connect it with Nagi’s bizarre appearance during 
our earlier encounter, I hesitated, debating for a long time 
lie fore I pushed the buzzer. 

When I finally did, it made a half-hearted, ultra normal ding- 
dong sound. 

“Who is it?” the voice from the intercom said, surprising 
me. It wasn’t Nagi’s voice, but rather that of a boy. 

“Um, is, uh.. .is Kirima-san...?” I stuttered, all flustered. 

“You’re Nagi’s Mend?” the voice said quite cheerfully. 

A moment later, the door swung open. The cheery boy stood 
m the doorway. He was taller than either Nagi or me, but younger, 
probably in Junior High. And that smile.. .it was friendly and 
warm. 

“Come on in. But Nagi’s not home yet. I’m afraid.” 

“O-oh, um...” 

“Come in and wait. She should be back soon.” 

He led me to the guest room. 




92 I Kouhei Kadono 


The inside was normal too. 

There was even a set of little dolls in the shape of the 
zodiac signs sitting on top of the cabinet. 

“Here,” the boy said, putting a cup of tea and a plate of 
cookies in front of me. 

“Uh, thanks.” It was really good. I know nothing about 
tea, but I’m pretty sure this was what they called good tea. 

“Gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever met a friend of Nagi’s 
before,” the boy said airily. 

“Y-you are... ?” I asked. 

“Her brother,” he replied. They looked nothing alike. 

“Um, I’d heard Kirima-san lived alone, so...” 

“Yeah, I got here about six months ago. I lived abroad 
with my parents until last spring, but I’ve got entrance tests for 
high school next year, so I thought that I ought to get used to 
Japan first.” 

“Your parents...” 

Nagi had parents after all. But why was their name 
Taniguchi? 

At this point, we heard a voice call out, “I’m home,” from 
the entrance. It was Nagi. 

“In here,” her brother said as he stood up and went to meet 

her. 

“You brought another girl home?” Nagi said. 

Her brother laughed. “This one’s yours. She’s been 
waiting for you.” 

I nearly yelped when Nagi came in. 

She had changed into her school uniform, like she’d just 
come home from school. 

“Oh, it’s you,” Nagi said quietly as I stood there speechless. 
“Let’s go upstairs.” 


Boogiepop and Others I 93 


Following her lead, we went upstairs to her bedroom. 

The polar opposite of downstairs, her room was free of 
decoration; nothing but computers and books. One bed, two 
desks. One was for studying, apparently, since the surface was 
empty. The other desk was for her computer—or, should I say, 
computers. It was kind of hard to tell just how many she had. 
There were multiple boxy computer towers and an assortment 
of other machines attached to them. She had three different 
monitors, all lined up next to each other. At first, I assumed two of 
I hem might’ve been televisions, but the screen savers were a dead 
giveaway. Worse, the pile of machinery spilled out onto the floor, 
filling nearly half of the ten-mat room. It felt less like a girl’s 
bedroom and more like some mad hacker’s secret lair. Much to 
my surprise, there were no signs of any black magic books at all. 
All the books that lined Nagi’s shelves were merely an assortment 
of reference books and difficult looking hardcover tomes. Still, 
Nagi’s collection of computer software boxes looked to have her 
book collection beat. 

Nagi pulled the chair out from the study desk, and offered it 
lo me. “Sit.” 

“Okay,” I said, and did. 

“Surprised?” Nagi grinned. 

“Hm?” 

“By Masaki. Everyone thinks I live alone.” 

“Urn, yeah. I didn’t know you had a brother.” 

“He’s not my brother. We’re not related,” Nagi replied, 
shaking her head. “He’s my mom’s second husband’s son 
from a previous marriage. He’s a good kid, but a bit too good at 
manipulating me. Gonna grow up to be a real Don Juan. 

Sad.” 

“So, that’s why his name’s... ?” 




94 I Kouliei Kadono 


“Right, my mom’s husband’s name. I kept the old one.” 

“Hmm...why?” 

‘“Cause I’ve got a father complex,” Nagi replied. I 
couldn’t tell if she was joking. 

“Your father is...?” 

“I thought you’d know. Kirima Seiichi. Wrote a lot of books.” 

‘ ‘Ehhhh?! ” I interrupted rather loudly. “You’re kidding! ’’ 

“Nope.” 

“But.. .the writer, Kirima Seiichi?!” 

Of course, I knew him. I’d learned most of what I knew 
about criminal psychology or depth psychology from his 
books. The Scream Inside - Multiple Personality Disorder, or 
When a Man Kills a Man, or Where the Killer’s Mind 
Changes, or A Nightmare of Boredom, or The Proliferation of 
“Dunno ”, or VS Imaginator, and so on. He’d written far more 
summaries, essays and commentaries than novels. In fact, I’d 
never read any of his actual novels, just his scientific writings. 
He called himself a modern day enlightenment thinker, which 
is kind of hokey, but he did write an incredible number of 
books. 

“That’s my dad. He’s dead now, though.” 

“Yeah, I knew that.. .but really? No, I mean really, 
really?” 

“Why would I lie?” 

“Iknow...but still...” 

“You didn’t think I had a strange name?” 

“Never occurred to me. Wonder why not?” 

Even as I asked, I knew the answer. I had unconsciously 
convinced myself that Kirima Seiichi or any other writer was 
hardly likely to live near me. Perhaps I wanted the people that I 





Boogiepop and Others I 95 

admired so much to live in some higher realm of existence than 
I did. 

“Basically, I’m living off of the inheritance. Can’t really beat 
it, either. Pays for school.” 

“Really? But your mother...” 

“She wasn’t married to him anymore. I got everything. She 
tossed her half away on her own. She was already a Taniguchi, 
and she didn’t want anything to do with Kirima. That took care of 
taxes, so I pay rent here.” 

Here I was, just some normal girl from a typical middle-class 
nuclear family, and I'm sitting here, listening to the Fire Witch 
I icrself talking about her atypical life! Her whole situation just felt 
sort of unreal to me. It’s no wonder that she acts the way she 
does. She’d hardly even been brought up in anything close to a 
I >roper environment. 

Even so, there was something that I had to ask. “Um, 
so...” 

“What? The reason?” 

“Yeah. Why’d you save Kyoko?” 

“My, my. You call that saving?” Nagi looked pleased. 

“She told me everything. She got on some weird drug. 

You saved all of the girls from that, right?” 

“Maybe I did.. .maybe I didn’t.” 

“Why? How’d you find out? What did you do about it?” I 
was relentless. 

Nagi simply stared back at me. 

I felt my heart beating. She was certainly pretty. I felt like she 
i night actually say, “I used magic.” 

What she actually said was, “My father died when I was 





96 I Kouhei Kadono 


“R-right,” I stuttered, feeling like I should make some 
response. She carried on as if she didn’t care if I was listening 
or not. 

“My mother had already left us when he died, so there 
were only the two of us in the house. He never drank and he 
never chased after women. All he did was work. One day, I 
came home from school and found him lying on the floor. I 
called an ambulance, but all I could do was wait next to him as 
he spit up blood. 

“He asked me, ‘Nagi, what do you think about being 
normal?’ 

“I didn’t know what he meant, so I shook my head. 

“He said, ‘Normal means you leave everything as it is and 
nothing ever changes. If you don’t like that, you’ve got to do 
things that aren ’t normal. That’s why I—’ 

“Those were his last words. He passed out and never 
woke up again. The cause of death was gastric perforation 
leading to dissolution of the internal organs. Disgusting way to 
die. I even heard that when the doctor cut his stomach open 
during the surgery, the smell was so bad that veteran nurses just 
started puking all over the floor. 

“So what? I don’t know. I just kind of gave up living 
normal after that.” 

She stopped. 

When I said nothing in response, she added, “It’s a 
messiah complex.” 

“R-really?” 

From her face alone, you would think her a demure beauty. I 
found myself staring at her kind of thin lips, somehow unable to 
meet her eyes. 

“I’m a psycho, all right. Got all the childhood trauma 







Boogiepop and Others I 97 


anyone could want, right here.” 

She said disturbing things so easily. 

But she didn’t look like a monomaniac to me. 

“But that’s—” I started to say, but Nagi turned towards the 
computer behind her, cutting me off. She logged into one of 
the computers, loaded up some program, and hit a few keys. 

A list popped up on one screen. It rolled upwards from the 
bottom of the screen. It appeared to be a list of people’s names 
with numbers after them. 

“Here,” she said, pointing at the screen. 

It read: 2-D-33 Suema Kazuko 8:25 AM-3:40 PM 

“That’s...” I said, realizing that it was my very own 
attendance record. 

“I’m logged into the school’s network. You can get a basic 
outline of a student’s movements with this. I noticed 
Kinoshita's group was suddenly getting worse, so I checked it 
out. Hit the drug story.” 

I was horrified. “Isn’t this illegal?” 

“Course it is,” she said readily. 

My mouth moved, but nothing came out. 

“I have to,” she said quietly. “Schools are kind of isolated 
from the rest of society. It’s a strange environment where the 
police can’t do jack. Something violent happens, whether it’s 
caused by a student or a teacher, and the first thing that they do is 
iry to cover it up. Even if someone dies, they’ll take a cue from 
i he times, and claim that it was a suicide caused by bullying, find 
some students who look like bullies, and just expel them for 
11 .. .and that may well end up being enough, half the time.” 

“T-true, but... 






98 I Kouliei Kadono 


“I know it’s wrong, but someone’s got to do it. We sure as 
hell can’t expect the teachers to.” I 

“That’s not what I mean, but...” 1 

But who was this girl, who would intentionally get herself ! 
suspended to do any of this? 1 

A messiah complex— 1 

That was a creepy type of megalomania, in which you I 
believed yourself to be some sort of savior. 1 

In Kirima Seiichi’s books, there was a case where a I 

middle-aged man believed himself to be Batman, put on a j 

costume and attacked an acquitted murder suspect. He wound 
up being killed himself, and the killer walked a second time, 
pleading self-defense. If the suspect had truly been innocent, 
the whole thing was a tragedy based on absurd principles, but 
if he had been guilty, then it was a tragedy in which justice 
had been utterly defeated by evil. Either way, it was a sad tale 
to recount. 

This is how Kirima Nagi saw herself. 

Certainly, Kirima Seiichi spent most of his time analyzing 
sinister phenomenon in the underbelly of the human mind, 
putting out books and articles on the distortions of reality that 
made people commit crimes, so if you wanted to, you could 
certainly make a case for him having a messiah complex as well. 

That his daughter, particularly one who diagnosed herself 
as having a father complex, was the same, was not particularly 
odd, but— 

When I sat there in silence, Kirima thrust a phone at me. Not 
one on the house’s line, but undoubtedly one taken out in her 
name and paid for out of her own pocket. 

“Call.” 

“Er...who?” My eyes widened. 







Boogiepop and Others I 99 


Much to my surprise, Nagi replied, “Your house, of 
course. Tell them you’re bringing a friend home for dinner, and 
i hat they should make extra.” 









T 

A he next day, Nagi came to school, off her suspension. 
Kyoko avoided her, and despite chasing us down the day 
before, Nagi acted as if she didn’t even know us. Right from 
the start of first period, she was slumped over her desk, 
sleeping soundly. The teachers said nothing, apparently letting 
sleeping dogs lie. 

Nagi stood up to go to the bathroom once during break, and 
I slid out after her without letting Kyoko see me. 

“Um, Kirima-san,” I said. 

“Mm?” She looked back remotely, clearly still half asleep. 
“Oh, you again. Sorry, but I’m gonna be up all night tonight, 
so I need to get some sleep while I still can. Talk to you later, 
okay?” Her business finished, she returned to class and went 
straight back to sleep. 

a ?? 

I was itching to talk with her more about yesterday, but any 
attempts that I tried to make were clearly going to be thwarted. 

I had ended up taking Nagi home for dinner the night 







Boogiepop and Others I 101 


Ik- lore. 

Why? Because she said, “Your folks are probably 
e xcessively worried when their daughter comes home late, with 
what happened before and all. Tell them that you met me, and that 
v< >u invited me over, since my parents are off on holiday.” 

Since she was right, I did as I was told. 

Her non-blood relative brother said, “Come again,” as we 
left the Taniguchi house. It was pitch black, the sun having 
long since set. 

We set off on foot, with Nagi silently following after me. 

Unable to stand the silence, I asked a foolish question. 
Don’t you ever show your soft side, Kirima-san?” 

“Sure. I’m careful not to be too hardcore. When I want, I 
can play a normal girl.” Her voice went up an octave as she 
said this, and she forced the comers of her mouth upwards into 
a dubious looking smile. Since she was a pretty girl, so it wasn’t 
ill that unnatural looking. 

“Well, good,” I said, laughing. It wasn’t what I really 
wanted to ask her. 

As I squirmed, she asked, “You’re smart, aren’t you?” 

“I suppose...” I wasn’t sure how to take this, coming from 
ilie girl who was the top scorer on the entrance exams and the top 
,i udent in the school, as far as make-up test were concerned. 

“I think so. That’s why I explained to you what I did, you 
know?” 

“Yeah. I won’t tell anyone.” I meant it. After all, no one would 
I idieve me. 

She shook her head. “That’s not what I mean. About 
KirimaSeiichi.” 

“Hm? What about him?” 

“You’ve been studying from his books, yet his daughter is 













102 I Kouhei Kadono 


doing this kind of stupid shit all the time. In other words, get 
out while you still can.” Her shoulders slumped. 

I stopped in my tracks and just looked at her. “Why do you 
say things like that?” 

“Why? That mess five years ago has nothing to do with 
you. Let go of it. It’ll come back to haunt you. It’ll warp your 
personality.. .just like it has mine!” ! 

“Why?” | 

“Why...” Nagi looked slightly irritated. “Do you want to 
end up like me?” 

Her eyes glared at me, her face that of the Fire Witch. But I 
didn’t pull back. I wasn’t afraid any more. I glared right back into 
those eyes. 

“How did you know that I was almost killed five years 
ago? I never told anyone.” 

Nagi stiffened. She’d made a mistake. “Um, I.. .that is...” 

“You’ve barely spoken to anyone in class, so you must 
have assumed that Doctor Murder’s past was public 
knowledge. But nobody knows. Just the people who were a 
part of it. Just my parents and the police.” j 

Nagi turned her head to the side to avert her gaze. 

“Oh my god.” 

Nagi remained silent. 1 

“So it was you. You saved me .” j 

They told us the killer hung himself. But that explanation had 
never sat all that well with me. 

She had taken him out. Just like she had saved Kyoko. 

“It.. .it’s not important. It was a long time ago,” she said, 
sullen. 

“It’s pretty dang important to me! I’ve been over this 
hundreds of times. Why am I still alive? I’m only alive because 








Boogiepop and Others I 103 


ilie killer went and killed himself? Yeah, that makes me feel 
i eal good, knowing that. That means that the only way that good 
things happen is if you just sit and wait for bad things to self- 
(lestruct. What kind of explanation is that?! It sucks! And you 
k now what else sucks? That there’s nothing we can do to make 
11 ic world a better place.” 

Yes. 

That was it. 

Justice might well prevail in the end, but ordinary people 
I ike me had no guarantee of surviving that long. We might get 
killed on the whim of some serial killer first. 

But even then, if we at least knew that there were some 
people fighting for us, it’d make things a lot easier to bear. If 
wc knew these people had saved us, we’d feel much more 
alive than if we only survived because the bad guy just up and 
killed himself. 

“That wasn’t me,” Nagi said coldly. 

“Liar.” 

“That was Boogiepop. Ultimately.” 

Suddenly presented with the name of a fictional character, 
an urban legend, I was put off my stride. “Hunh?” I said, 
dazed. 

“Never mind. The point is, you have nothing to feel 
responsible for,” she said roughly. Her tone seemed to imply that 
she had been joking a moment before, evading my question. 

“But I...” 

“Please, I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, and bit her 
lower lip. 

And so we walked on, without my having said the most 
crucial thing. 





104 I Kouhei Kadono 


*** 

As third period began, Nagi was still asleep. 1 

I found myself staring vacantly at the curve of her back. I 

She looked so isolated, so lonely. I 

I imagined saying so much to her. Stuff like, ‘Kirima-san, I 
all I wanted to do was thank you. Thank you for saving me. If ] 
you can’t repay the person who saved your life, then there’s I 
something wrong with the world. Right?’ I 

Sadly, I couldn’t imagine how she would respond. I 

Her body twisted on her desk. As she did this, she moaned 
aloud. I 

The teacher finally lost it and shouted, “Kirima!” I 

Nagi’s head rose slowly from her desk. “Wha?” 1 

“What did I just say? On second thought, prove this I 
formula!” The teacher slapped the blackboard behind me. His ] 
handwriting wasn ’ t legible at the best of times, and having it I 
rubbed away in places didn’t help matters. All this made it 1 
next to impossible to read the whole equation if you hadn’t 1 

taken notes during his lecture. I 

Nagi narrowed her eyes, staring at the board for a moment, f 
“a<b, ab>c. When c is a rational number, x=24, y=17/3, z=7,” J 
she answered, and flopped back on her desk. 

The teacher’s face turned beet red. She was right. 

We all giggled, but Nagi ignored us and went right back to 
sleep. I 

It was just another typical school day. ] 

Her oddball behavior might be her way of preparing for 
her next fight, but to the casual onlooker, she just seemed 
insolent. 






Boogiepop and Others I 105 


She stirred in her sleep again, moaning. The moan 
sounded oddly girlish, and I stifled a laugh. 

After all, the Fire Witch had finished her suspension, and was 
hack among us. 



Interlude 


F 1 

-M—Echoes wandered the town. The clothes he'd procured 
a week before were now mere rags, and the police had nearly 
arrested him as a suspicious character, when all he’d really done 
was just walk down the street. He’d been saved by some 1 
mysterious boy in a black hat, and managed to escape without 
hurting a soul. On the way here from the mountains, he had 
already been forced to seriously injure six people. 

He knew the Manticore was near. j 

But human towns were built too close together, and the 1 

people living in them all seemed to congregate together. He j 
had no idea how to find the Manticore here. 

As the sky grew darker, he found himself in a back alley, ! 
and once more, he collapsed on the ground. 1 

This time, there were no people around. The alley smelled of 
rancid water. 1 

“ 99 

He looked up at the evening sky, but he couldn’t see the | 
stars here. In the mountains, he had been able to see them even 








Boogiepop and Others I 107 


111 broad daylight. 

But he couldn’t cry any longer. The boy in the black hat 
had told him, “You’re chasing something. Cry when you have 
lound it.” 

This was true. 

He could not rest here. 

He had to stop the Manticore’s slaughter. The Manticore 
was made from him. It was his child. 

She had the power of communication that even he lacked, not 
1 1 > mention the powers that let him blend in with this planet’s 
ecological system. This “transformation power” in particular could 
do untold damage to the environmental balance of this planet’s 
I >i i marily human civilization and prevent him from carrying out his 
n lain objective. 

His objective— 

He had to fulfill it. That was why he had been created. But 
ilie Manticore’s existence was a hindrance to his objective, to 
liis decision. 

He had to make a decision, one way or the other. 

That decision had to be rigorously balanced. Like him, the 
Manticore was alien to this planet and should not exist here. 

I Ic had to dispose of her. 

ii. 99 

He staggered to his feet. 

There was a scream. A young women had come into the 
illey and caught sight of him. 

He waved his hands trying to show that he meant no harm. 
But he didn’t need to. 

“What are you doing here?” the woman asked, coming 
inwards him. It had not been a scream of terror, but simply 
surprise. “Oh no, you’re hurt! How did this happen?” 









108 I Kouhei Kadono 


On closer inspection, the woman was still a girl. ] 

Without any reluctance, she wiped the blood from the 
wound on his head with an expensive looking designer 
handkerchief. The wound itself had long since healed, and he felt 
no pain from it, but the blood was still there, dried to his skin. : 

“H-hurt...” he said, trying to explain that it did not need 
tending. But there were few words in her speech for him to 
return and he could not produce a phrase with meaning. ! 
“What should I do? Call the police?” 1 

“P-police...” was all he could say. - 

But somehow the girl understood what he meant from this. 
“No police, hunh? Okay. Where’s your house? Nearby?” 
He picked some words from her speech, forcing a 
sentence. “No—hou-house.” When he spoke to people, he 
could only return words they had spoken, so as to not provide 
them with information beyond the limits of their under¬ 
standing. ] 

“Homeless? Looks like you’re in some kind of trouble.” 
He nodded. He waved his hands, telling her to back away 
from him. 1 

She patted him gently on the shoulder. Body language for 
“calm down.” 

“No way, Jose. I leave you here and I won’t be able to 
sleep at night.” 

Somehow, she seemed to understand what he wanted to say, 
even though he could not speak directly. | 

“Hmm, let me see.. .for the moment, let’s put you in 
school. There’s a card reader at the gate to get in, but I think I 
know a back way in.” 1 

“Sch-school...” | 

“Yeah, I live in an apartment building, but there are pryinp 





Boogiepop and Others I 109 


eyes everywhere. See? You aren’t the only one with 
problems,” she said jokingly, and grabbed his arm, pulling him 
forcibly to his feet. Then she dragged him after her. 

He didn’t know what else to do, so he followed her. 

‘Who was she?’ he thought, and almost instantly she 
answered, “Me? My name’s Kamikishiro. Kamikishiro 
N; loko. I’m a senior at Shinyo Academy. You?” 

“Ah.. .oooh...” he couldn’t answer. He was not allowed 
i (> provide humans with information about himself. 

“You can’t talk?” 

“Can’t.. .ta-talk.” 

“You’re talking now. Hmm.. .they call you Echoesl 
Strange name. Almost like it was made for me to call you by.” 

Kamikishiro giggled. She had not yet noticed that she was 
111 iderstanding things that he had not said. 

She smiled at him. “Don’t worry. I know this kooky girl 
i lamed Nagi. Anytime there’s trouble, we talk to her and she 
usually takes care of it. Assuming you aren’t a bad guy. Echoes,” 
lie finished with a wink. 

She pulled out a cell phone, thumb flying over the keys, 
dialing this Nagi person with a practiced motion. 











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I’ irst year student Saotome Masami first fell in love 
when he was fifteen. Until that point, he had never opened his 
heart to anyone and simply remained a ‘nice guy’ to the people 
around him. Needless to say, this was a major turning point in 
Ins life. 

“Saotome-kun, you free Sunday?” asked his classmate 
k nsatsu Akiko, shortly after the start of the second term as 
they were performing their after-school cleaning duties. 

“No plans to speak of.” 

“See, Sachiko has some free movie tickets, and she said we 
should all go together.” Akiko had dark skin and high 
t heekbones. She looked at Masami, waiting for an answer. 

“We?” Masami asked, leaning on his broom. This lowered 
Ins face to her line of sight. He was tall, with a face that had 
Mist enough charm to get him compared to pop idols. But it 




114 I Kouhei Kadono 


was always a different person every time, never fixing on one 
resemblance. I 

You know Sakamoto-kun from class F? He made a pass 
at Sachiko and got the tickets, but she’s a little nervous about 
going it alone.” 9 

“So, you need a discipline committee member as an escort'’ 
I know Sakamoto pretty well, and I don’t want to drag his feet.” 

“Oh, you don’t need to.. .well, maybe you do,” Kusatsu 
Akiko said, smiling weakly at him. She was pretty forthright 
with everyone else but Masami, but she couldn’t contradict him 
directly, because she was in love. Masami was well aware of this, 
and privately, he was annoyed by it. Until now. j 

But today, he simply smiled back at her instead. I 

“But if you just want me to tag along, fine. Not like I’ve 
got anything better to do. If we run into the guidance teacher on 
patrol, I can probably talk us out of trouble.” 1 

Kusatsu Akiko’s face brightened. “Really? Well, the truth 
is, Sachiko’s secretly pleased that Sakamoto-kun asked her, so I 
don ’ t think you ’ 11 need to intervene.” I 

“Whatever.” fl 

They both laughed. 

You could never call Kusatsu Akiko a good-looking girl, but 
when she smiled next to the far more evenly-featured Masami, she 
gleamed like a still image from a soap opera. 1 

*** 

When the four of them met at the station, they appeared to 
be a very close-knit group. They ran into Masami’s sempai on 
the discipline committee, Takeda Keiji, and he took one look at i 








Boogiepop and Others I 115 


iliem and asked if they were “double dating.” So, there was 
1 1 early a hint of romance in the air. 

The movie was a big Hollywood action movie, part three 
in a series, neither harming anyone nor doing anyone any 
good. The only part that Masami enjoyed was a bit where a 
mi nor villain was shot in the chest and knocked over backwards. 

11 is arms were flung out to the sides, and he slid backwards like a 

I igure skater. In Masami’s eyes, he looked light and free. 

They left the theater, and a passing group of teenagers 
glared at them murderously. Walking quickly, faces grim, they 
ill carried bags with large square lumps inside. 

“Cram school?” asked Noguchi Sachiko, this evening's 

II istigator. “I hope we never end up like that.” 

“Yeah,” Kusatsu Akiko nodded. Masami remembered her 
kiting it slip that she couldn’t go to college, because her 
lather’s company was about to go bankrupt. 

“That’s a long time from now. We ought to enjoy 
ourselves while we can,” Sakamoto Jun said, trying to distract 
Noguchi Sachiko. 

“Yeah, just forget about it. Just live your life. Not like you 
« an live forever,” Masami said breezily. 

“Oh look, it’s Yurihara from our school,” Noguchi 
Sachiko said, pointing. 

Yurihara Minako, second year, class D, one of the best 
, 11 idents in the school, and legend had it that she consistently beat 
• ini the best students at other cram schools on their practice tests. 
Mut she didn’t look at all like the brainy type. Heck, she didn’t 
r ven wear glasses. Instead, she had long straight hair with the 
k ind of shine that no amount of treatment could ever give. It 
matched her slender face, giving the impression of a Heian era 







116 1 Kouhei Kadono 


princess. 1 

Yurihara Minako passed by them as they whispered, walking 
at a slower pace than the other students, and vanished into the 
cram school. | 

“She’s so relaxed. You can just see the aura of her 
genius.” ] 

“You know she was scouted by some prep schools, right?" 
Sakamoto said with a knowledgeable expression. 1 

‘ ‘Really ? They can do that?” I 

From the fuss that they made, you would never have thought 
that they were talking about a sempai. 1 

All the while, Masami remained quiet, smiling to himself. 
He didn’t even glance at Yurihara Minako. 1 

They had promised not to let their eyes meet in public. 
“Anyone up for karaoke? There’s a place near here with a 
great track list,” Kusatsu Akiko said brightly. She was in a good 
mood, now that she was out with her beloved Masami. 

In the karaoke box, Masami sang easy pop songs, ones 
that had been all the rage up until recently, but had passed their 
peak, and everyone was starting to get sick of them now. He 
almost always sang that sort of song at karaoke. He preferred an 
American band called The Doors, which had broken up ages 
ago (long before he was even born) when the lead singer died 
of a drug overdose. But he never told anybody. The Doors 
weren’t in a lot of karaoke machines, but he never sang them 
even if they were. i 

He had a good voice, but since everyone was a little tired 
of his selections, they never really seemed all that interested. 

He always applauded other people’s performances, never 
forgetting to keep up appearances. He never stuck out, was 







Boogiepop and Others I 117 


. iccasionally a little scorned, but he never made anyone jealous, 
.uid no one ever realized that he was keeping them at a distance. 

He bought drinks for everybody. He took them directly 
horn the tray when the waiter brought them and even passed 
ihem around himself. 

He put Kusatsu Akiko’s drink in her hands. Nobody saw 
him drop a small tablet, about five millimeters across, into her cup 
l u lore he handed it over. Yurihara Minako had ‘synthesized’ the 
i, ihlet, and as promised, it quickly dissolved into the diet cola, 
k usatsu Akiko never noticed a thing. 






T 

M. he first girl that Saotome Masami fell in love with was 
a second year student, Kirima Nagi. He told her this in May. I 
She rejected him quite harshly. 1 

“Sorry, but I don’t have the time,” was all she said. 1 

“Is... is it because I’m younger?” 1 

“No, not really.. .you’re normal, right? Me? I’m nothing ] 
but trouble. Thanks, but sorry.” ■ 

“O-okay.” He was far less hurt by this than he’d expected. 
Quite the opposite; he found himself rather relieved to be | 

brushed off coldly. 1 

It was two months before he identified the source of those 
feelings. 1 


“Hey, Saotome, you take Kusatsu home. I’ll take care of 
Noguchi,” Sakamoto whispered in Masami’s ear as their time 
in the karaoke box ran low. 






Boogiepop and Others I 119 


“Sure. Good luck,” Masami whispered back. 

As the four of them left the shop, Kusatsu Akiko suddenly 
proclaimed, “I.. .1 don’t feel so good.” Her face was white as a 
sheet. 

“That’s too bad. I’d better take you home,” Masami said, 
putting his arm around her shoulders. 

“Uh, hang on! Saotome-kun!” Noguchi Sachiko cried, all 
I lustered. She was about to be left alone with Sakamoto. 

“You two have fun. Don’t worry. I’ll look after her.” 

“Er, but...” 

“You heard the man. Let him go,” Sakamoto said, cajoling. 

As the men had planned, they split off into two pairs. Noguchi 
Sachiko was steamrolled under Sakamoto’s promises that he 
w< >uldn’t “try anything.” 

Afterwards, he did get her to a hotel, where they had 
il lations, but Noguchi Sachiko’s parents found out and her 
old-fashioned father stormed the school, tracked Sakamoto 
down, and cursed him out in front of everyone. But in all the 
luss, the two of them never had a moment to notice the events 
ihat followed. They had completely forgotten they were ever 
with Saotome Masami that night. 

“Bye!” 

“Yeah,” Masami replied, as the four became two. 

“I feel sick...” Kusatsu Akiko’s voice grew gradually 
weaker in Masami’s arms. 

Masami never spoke a word. He simply hauled her along 
.is if she were a piece of luggage. The silence was deafening. 

Kusatsu Akiko was in no condition to be insulted. Her 
lace was well beyond pale; you could see the blood vessels 
under her skin. 




120 I Kouhei Kadono 


Not caring, Masami dragged her into the backroads. All 
they did was leave the lights and noise of the main drag for a 
narrow back road, but it was as silent as a graveyard, I 

seemingly light years from the bustle of the city. j 

Before them was a giant parking garage that had failed in 
its bid to reopen and been abandoned. The land was intended 
to become an office building, but the owner had been unable 
to find any clients, and he had no other choice but to make it into 
a parking garage. As luck would have it, the owner had then gone 
bankrupt, and it was now just another of the country’s forgotten 
bad debts. 1 

Masami slipped between the railings of the surrounding 
fence, holding Akiko under his arm. She said nothing. She had 
already stopped breathing. I 

He dragged her up to the seventh floor of the parking lot. 
This far up, there was no chance of them being disturbed by 
thrill seekers. \ 

Leaving Kusatsu Akiko on the ground, Masami stuck his 
face outside. It was pitch black all around them. Even if a 
normal human on the ground had been looking upwards, they 
could never have seen him. 

He looked at his watch. It was a digital watch with a 
backlit screen. Unlike radial watches, it had the advantage of 
not making a sound. 1 

The time confirmed, he nodded to himself. 

Staring into the blackness below him, he waved his hands. 
There was a small noise from far below him, like someone 
pushing a tack into a board. 1 

Within an instant, a human shape appeared in the air in 
front of Masami . 


Boogiepop and Others I 121 


It was a girl. 

The shape slid past Masami, entering the parking lot. It 
landed right at the top of its arc, and there was no sound as its 
leet touched the floor. 

The girl had jumped all the way to the seventh floor. 

The girl turned towards Masami. She had long, bountiful. 
Mack hair plastered to her head. She had a cram school bag in 
her hand. 

It was Yurihara Minako. 

“Were you successful?” she asked. 

Masami nodded. “Over there,” he said, pointing to 
Kusatsu Akiko’s corpse, which lay on its side, no longer moving. 

“That one? The other girl was better,” Yurihara said, 

1 1 owning. Agitation could not be farther from her mind. 

“Not really. This girl has friends all over. Lots of friends 
I rom Junior High,” Masami replied, voice devoid of warmth. 

“Does she? Then fine. You know more than I do, 
Saotome-kun.” Yurihara handed her bag to Masami. He took 
tt like an obedient little hotel bellboy whose only job is to 
serve. 

Yurihara stooped down in front of Kusatsu Akiko. 

“Mmm.. .seems like a waste not to eat her now," she said, 
her beautiful face contorting. 

“Yeah, but if we use her, you’ll be able to assimilate four 
or five more in no time,” Masami chuckled. “For now, we 
wait, Manticore.” 

“Human society makes it hard to move.” Yurihara the 
Manticore said, sighing. She lowered her face next to Kusatsu 
Akiko’s. 

Her long hair started to get in the way, so she held it back 










122 I Kouhei Kadono 


with her fingers, and kissed the corpse tenderly. j 

Her tongue pried the body’s mouth open, forcing a j 
gaseous form of the essence manufactured inside her body into 
Kusatsu Akiko. I 

Watching this monstrous, sinister spectacle unfolding in 
the darkness, Masami was entranced. As if he felt sexual ! 
pleasure, his face was even more ecstatic than at the moment 
of ejaculation. 1 

For thirty long seconds, Yurihara kept her lips pressed to 
the corpse’s. ] 

Finally, she pulled away, wiping her mouth with the back of 
her hand. Her lips were bright red, but not from lipstick—the 
color did not rub off on her hands. I 

The color of her skin was so sleek she appeared to be 
wearing makeup, but this was also her natural state. When she 
had copied the real Yurihara Minako, she had copied the makeup 
as well. 

“She should be revitalized momentarily,” Yurihara said, 
with a satisfied smile. 

“Hmm...” Masami said doubtfully. To make sure, he j 

kicked the corpse lightly. Its fingers twitched. “Good.” 1 

Bit by bit, the entire body began shaking violently, as if it were 
lying on top of a high voltage electric fence. j 

Then the torso shot upwards, as if on a spring. 1 

The eyes and mouth popped open, and a blue liquid, neither ■ 
tears nor saliva, came pouring out of them. j 

“Woah! Can’t let that touch me,” Masami said, backing away 
from the sweet scent wafting off of the volatile liquid. j 

“Yes. For humans, it will work like a drug. It would not do i 

for you to become addicted as well, Saotome-kun.” Yurihara 





Boogiepop and Others I 123 


I'laced herself between Masami and Kusatsu Akiko. “Look 
In-re, woman,” she ordered. 

The no longer dead Kusatsu Akiko did as she was told, 
lowly rolling her head towards Yurihara. The flow of liquid 
lud stopped. 

“I have given you power. Power to corrupt humans. Use 
ihis power to supply me with more humans.” 

In normal society, Yurihara’s words were unthinkable, but 
11 ic previously dead girl nodded. 

“Corrupt them well. When they suddenly vanish, we want 
ilie humans around them to assume that this was the logical next 
lage of their recent poor behavior. Including yourself.” 

Behind her, Masami nodded proudly, like a parent whose son 
had just correctly answered a question on visitor’s day. 

Yurihara whispered, “You have no memories of what 
happened here. You went bad of your own free will...” 






Five minutes later, Masami was walking along the ] 

street, once again supporting Kusatsu Akiko. I 

“Mm.. .mm?” Her fainting spell ended, and her eyes 1 

opened. “Wh-where are we?” 1 

“Ah, good. You’re awake,” Masami said, stepping away from 
her. I 

“Eh? I was asleep? Oh no! Why didn’t you wake me?” 1 
Kusatsu Akiko asked, quite flustered. I 

“I shook you several times.” I 

“Oh no! I’m sorry! I wonder what.. .uhhh...” She tried to , 
figure out the last thing she remembered, but she couldn’ t ] 

remember a thing. Obviously, it never occurred to her that she 
had died and was now merely functioning as a puppet, thanks to 
the stimulus of the drug. 

“You’re pretty heavy, you know that? It was hard work 
carrying you,” Masami said sternly. 

Kusatsu Akiko turned bright red, but for some reason, she 
wasn’t that hurt by his words. I 




Boogiepop and Others I 125 


They parted ways in front of the station. 

“See you at school tomorrow.’’ 

“Yeah.. .don’t tell anyone about tonight. Especially...” she 
started to say a name, but trailed off. 

She felt like there was a boy who she really didn’t want to 
■cc her in an embarrassing moment like this, but for the life of 
her, she couldn’t remember his name or what he looked like. 

“Especially who?” Masami asked, with a knowing smile. 

“Mm.. .never mind,” Kusatsu Akiko’s love had vanished 
with her memories. 

“I had fun today,” Masami said kindly. 

But she simply replied, “Oh?” as if she didn’t care at all, 
and turned her back. 

She felt like there was a big, gaping hole in her heart, but 
lie had no way of telling that her will and spirit were swiftly 
vanishing. 

Masami paused to watch Kusatsu Akiko venture into the 
station, then swiftly turned on his heel and walked back into 
the city. 

Yurihara was waiting at the Tristan coffee shop. She was 
seated in a booth towards the back. 

“It went well?” she asked. She was wearing glasses and 
had her hair in a sauvage style. Masami knew that Yurihara 
could control her hair at will, but these quick hairstyle changes 
always took a moment to get used to. 

“Yeah, her emotions are already fading,” Masami replied. 

I ie sat down and ordered lemon tea and marron cake to soothe 
his sweet tooth. “Without knowing what she’s doing, she’llmake 
; 1 11 of her friends try a drug that even she doesn’t remember 
getting.” 






126 I Kouhei Kadono 


“Like a sleepwalker in the night, she’ll regurgitate the fluid 
made by the cells in her body. She won’t even try to figure oul 
where it comes from. Her brain is shrinking, and she can’t be ] 
bothered to make decisions on her own.” 1 

They looked at each other and giggled. 1 

From the side, they looked like any peaceful, harmless I 
young couple. But Saotome had already sacrificed the lives of 
three girls to Yurihara—the monstrous man-eater known as the 
Manticore. 1 

They had met two months before, just before summer ] 

vacation. | 

Masami was a member of the tea ceremony club, largely 
because it never did anything. He had heard that it was a good 
idea to have been a member of a club in high school when it came 
time to apply for universities or jobs. Yurihara Minako was a 
member as well. Much like Masami, she hardly ever bothered 
to show up for the infrequent meetings that the club tended to I 

have. | 

One day, it suddenly started to rain in the evening, despite 
blue skies all afternoon. The whims of summer. Masami had 
not planned to go to the club meeting, but since he had no I 
umbrella, he thought he might as well kill some time in the tea 
room. He turned around at the shoe boxes at the entrance to 
school and went back inside. | 

The tea ceremony club didn’t have a room of their own; they 
simply borrowed a room that was usually used for student 
guidance, as it was the only Japanese style room in the school. 
The faculty sponsor was the assistant principal, Komiya, and 
he was much too busy to ever show his face at meetings. 

That day, the room was deathly silent and there was no 



Boogiepop and Others I 127 


.ign of any other students. 

Next to the door was the tea ceremony club attendance 
l)ook. If your name was written in this, it appeared that you 
had attended the meeting. Even if you rarely came, as long as 
your name showed up in the book, you were treated like an 
active member and could stay on the rosters. 

Masami opened the book, and was about to write the date 
and his name, when he realized there was already an entry for that 
date. Someone else was here. 

Y urihara Minako. 

Even if she had gone to the bathroom, it was strange that she 
hadn’t left her bag. Before now, Masami had never even had the 
,lightest interest in Yurihara Minako. She had a reputation for 
brains and beauty, but she never mattered to him in the slightest. 
And, like many a man before him, he had always been baffled by 
i he idea of beauty. 

He had already lost his virginity in Junior High to a girl 
with a face covered in zits and who was widely reputed as being 
i oi her ugly. Their relationship was kept secret, but less because he 
was embarrassed and more because he just didn’t want to 
listen to everyone else’s shocked commentaries on the subject. 

I le didn’t think anything at all about dating an ugly girl. In 
I act, after she started dating him, her pimples vanished and 
actually she became quite pretty. She soon left him for another 
boyfriend. But Masami wasn’t particularly upset. He had 
never actually loved her to begin with; he simply used her to 
relieve his sexual appetites. Instead, she ended up crying and 
apologizing, even though it had been her idea to break up in 
ilie first place. 




128 I Kouhei Kadono 


Masami no longer remembered her name and he couldn’t ‘ 
remember Yurihara Minako ’ s face all that clearly either. He I 

knew she was supposed to be good looking and that she had 
good grades, but that was about it. jH 

“Sempai, you there?” he asked, taking off his slippers and 
stepping onto the tatami in his socks. I 

He opened the shoji leading into the inner room. It was 11 
less of a room than a storage area for tables and cushions. II 
The moment he opened it, his eyebrows leapt upwards. II 
In the storage area, Yurihara Minako was upside-down l 
against a pile of cushions, face twisted around so that it faced the | 
same direction as her torso. Her head was on backwards. Her 
neck was broken with her spine clearly severed. Her eyes II 
were open and empty. 11 

She wasn’t moving... at all. II 

She was dead. i 

The first thought that flashed through Masami’s mind was f 
relief that he had not written his name in the attendance book. I 
He didn’t want to get mixed up in something like this. I 

He took a step backwards. jfl 

This saved his life. I 

A hand with razor sharp claws passed through the air just - 
in front of his face. II 

Some hidden killer had attacked him. fl 

{What —?!) II 

He looked up. ■ 

There was a naked girl clinging to the ceiling, hands and 
feet thrust in the cracks between the wood paneling. He { 

thought it was a woman, but only assumed this because he j 







Boogiepop and Others I 129 


couldn’t see any male genitalia between its legs. Later, he was 
in learn that there was no genitalia there at all. 

The girl grinned. “You saw me,” she whispered. “Now 
i hat you have seen me, I cannot allow you to live,” she 
continued as if she were sharing a joke. If there had not 
ilieady been a corpse lying beneath her, he would not have 
l iken her seriously. 

Masami was stunned. He simply stared blankly up at her, 
immobile. 

If he had been a girl, he would have heard the legends. He 
would have thought, ‘It’s Boogiepop!’ 

She moved like the wind. She kicked Masami in the chest, 
■ending him flying into the opposite wall before he knew what 
happened. 

“■—Gah!” He yelled as his back slammed into the wall. He 
moaned in pain, “Unh...” and was about to pass out, but he knew 
(leep down that he couldn’t let himself succumb to his body ’ s 
frailties. 

She laughed softly as she approached. There were traces 
of mud and leaves on her body. The mountains behind the 
school ran deep. She had probably ventured through them and 
come out at the school. 

She looked like a majestic wild animal with a strange 
I teauty about her; a strange fearlessness that he had never seen 
.my where else, and an established aloofness found only in things 
that were beyond human understanding. 

Masami simply stared up at her. 

“Nice timing. I had just thought that it would be better to 
copy a male than a female. I shall take your shape,” she said, 
teaching out towards Masami. 




130 1 Kotihei Kadono 


As if freed from possession, he blinked and said, “Wha- ! 
what?” He frowned, “C-copy?” 1 

“Yes. I shall become you and blend into human society. No 
one will ever be able to find me.” I 

“Hunh,” his face scrunched up, but not because he felt 
despair at the sight of his approaching demise. No; the next thing 
he said was, “In that case, it would be far more effective to keep 
me alive.” He sounded a little put out by this. ] 

The girl frowned. “Why...?” 1 

“Oh, you’ll just have a much easier time as a stuck up : 
teacher’s pet with no friends at all like our little Yurihara ; 

Minako here. If you try to take my place, people will notice 
the difference. I’ve strived to maintain at least a mid-level of 
popularity here. People know me.” 

He sounded deeply disappointed by this. That’s because 
he was. 1 

He wanted to be killed by something much more powerfu I 
than him. Even with Kirima Nagi, he had not really wanted to 
date her; he had wanted her to kill him. 

This was his nature. And for the first time, he understood 
this clearly. a 

He didn’t know why exactly. There was obviously ! 

nothing out of the ordinary happening at home, and he had no 
childhood trauma to contend with, like Suema Kazuko had almosi 
encountered. But there it was, clear as day. I 

If you searched really hard for a reason, it was a reaction 
against his life style—a way for him to fight against his 
deliberate pretense of mundanity. But this was far too shallow 
a reason to satisfy a psychiatrist. People like Masami, with a 
fetish for indirect suicide, were not particularly unusual. 1 


Boogiepop and Others I 131 


“.?” The naked killer looked down at him, baffled. 

11 util now, everyone who had ever seen her had felt nothing 
hut hatred and fear, but this boy showed no signs of either. 

Why are you so quiet? You do not struggle.. .you do not 
I icg?” she found herself asking. 

“That’s because I love you,” Masami answered, honestly 
and quite sincerely. 

“Hunh?” For the first time in her life, the girl was 
dumbfounded. 


“You were right, Saotome-kun. Yurihara Minako’s form 
Ills my needs well. Nobody thinks it strange if I don’t talk to 
ihem in class. She was always like that, apparently,” the 
Manticore said, in the dimly lit coffee shop. Her face so 
lierfectly matched Yurihara’s that for all intents and purposes 
lie was Yurihara Minako, as the former owner of that name had 
long since been erased from the face of the earth. 

“I thought so.” 

“The classes at school resemble some sort of game, but this 
ludying for exams is utterly pointless. I just have to read the 
explanation and I can understand anything.” 

“You’re much smarter than most of us humans then.” 

“Even Yurihara Minako’s parents haven’t noticed the 
difference. They communicate with her so cautiously. Are all 
luimans like that?” 

“Mostly. But be careful. There are a few egoists who think 
other people are a part of themselves. My parents, for 
example.” 







132 1 Kouhei Kadono 


“Shall I kill them for you?” Yurihara suggested airily. 1 
“Not yet. It’s still too early,” Masami replied just as evenly 
“True. We must be cautious until we control the world,” ] 
she giggled. 1 

“Exactly,” Masami grinned back. 1 

At this point, the waitress brought the lemon tea and cake thai 
Masami had ordered. She overheard them talking about ] 

‘controlling the world, ’ but just assumed that they were talking 
about some sort of new video game. 1 

But she did think that the couple was far too homy, I 
though, and that they should get a room before they started 
making out right there in the restaurant. 

‘They can’t even be out of high school yet, but they’re 
acting like newlyweds. They’re all over each other!” she 
thought. She was still reeling from a harsh break up, so she 
slapped the bill on the table a bit roughly and left. | 

Masami carried on, “Should we make ourselves any new 
slaves beyond Kusatsu Akiko?” ] 

“Yes, if possible. I’d like two or three more. Too many, and 
we might get noticed, though.. .but at some point, we’ll need them 
on a larger scale. Better to test the process out now.” | 

Their plan was simple: remake human society with themselves 
at the center. Yurihara certainly had the power to make that a 
reality. She could become any human she wanted and could make 
any human do her bidding. I 

The idea was Masami’s. He offered to cooperate with her, 
but when she told him of her powers, he found himself 
rubbing his hands together with glee. ] 

“We can use that,” he said eagerly. j 

When she heard his plan, it sounded quite reasonable, so 



Boogiepop and Others I 133 


lie agreed. All she’d thought about before now was her own 
survival. She’d never actually thought about the rest of the 
world. And more importantly, she had always been alone. 
She’d been cloned as an ‘experiment’ and had no family of her 
own. The only person who had ever told her “I love you” was 
Saotome Masami, whom normal society would classify as a 
crazed lunatic. 

“But there must be agents from the ‘institution’ pursuing me. 
What should we do about them?” 

“At the moment, all we can do is hope that they don’t find 
you. Give it a little more time, and we’ll be able to fight back.” 

“And demolish anyone who wishes to ‘erase’ me as a 
‘failure’?” 

“Exactly! You’re no failure. You’re going to be the new 
mler of the world,” Masami said forcefully. 

Yurihara rested her hand on top of his. “Saotome-kun, you 
.ire my prince.” The man-eating monster stroked the hand of 
her Mephistopheles, while sweetly whispering, “I love you.” 

11 may have been twisted, but they were unmistakably in love. 





4 . 


A 

■LM. s they had planned, Kusatsu Akiko gradually began 
to come to school less and less often. Her family was falli ng 
apart, and was behind on her tuition payments, so nobody 
thought this at all unnatural. 

She got her friends hooked, and Yurihara and Masami took 
them. The first one they nabbed was Suzumiya Takako, 
second year, class F. 

It was easy to take her. She and her friends always gathered 
in seclusion, and all that Yurihara and Masami had to do was 
follow them as they left and simply take them down. 

Unfortunately, they were unable to alter them in the way that 
they had Kusatsu Akiko. They died, but they did not return. 

“It seems it requires a very delicate balance.” 

“Good thing we decided to experiment first,” they said, 
whispering in the darkness. 

They had been killing Shinyo Academy and other local high 
school girls, one after another. To cover this up, they laid down a 
few red herrings to throw off the authorities. 





Boogiepop and Others I 135 


Once the precedent was established, the rest of their work 
went smoothly. There were no signs of fuss at school. At Shinyo 
Academy, there had even been a special meeting and a resulting 
morning lecture, but that was all. Missing person reports had 

I >i obably been filed with the police, but they were buried in a 

II k >untain of missing girls totally unrelated to them at all, and 
wi ftly forgotten about. 

“The students that ran away were all slackers to begin 
with,” the guidance teacher told Saotome at the discipline 
committee meeting. 

This generalization was so insensitive to the students’ 
individual circumstances that the committee president, Niitoki 
kei, stiffened her tiny body and turned her cute, childish face 
downwards to hide her steaming glare. 

But Masami was taking minutes, so he wrote the gist of the 
comment down in his notebook. “Disturbance in behavior 
precedes disappearance.” As he wrote these words, he was 
expressionless. 

He never let a faint smile steal across his lips. 

Everything was going exactly according to plan. 

Still, he was left expressionless. Nothing the teachers said 
ind nothing happening around him could change this. He had 
k 1 1 led five people without so much as remorse, and here he was, 

I ill acting like an ordinary student. 

But when the teacher stated that, “Incidentally, the 
infamous Kirima Nagi failed to arrive this morning. Make sure 
io keep an eye on her, hear? No telling what that girl’s plotting 
m the shadows,” Masami’s cold heart skipped a beat. He 
didn’t show it, but even now that he had the Manticore, hers 
was one of the few names that could affect him. 




136 I Kouhei Kadono 


Kusatsu Akiko’s behavior became strange a month after i 
she had been altered. 1 

Even when she came to school, she seemed particularly 
out of it. I 

When people spoke to her, she barely seemed to notice, 1 
much less reply. 

(...uh-oh.) | 

Masami figured that Kusatsu Akiko had begun to break down 
much faster than expected. ] 

They couldn’t leave her like this. She was clearly 
evidence. If she collapsed somewhere and was taken to a j 
hospital, they would surely discover her condition, and the 
‘institution’ that made the Manticore would soon find out. 

So Yurihara was forced to eat Kusatsu Akiko, and the first 
stage of their experiment ended. Unfortunately, they had still 
not managed to recruit a second subject with any real success, 
and it was putting considerable strain on both Masami and 
Yurihara’s relationship. I 

“Damn it! Why doesn’t it work?!” Yurihara yelled, ] 

growing ever more high strung. I 

“It’s nothing to worry about. We will have many more j 
opportunities.” | 

“I know that, but...” Yurihara said, and then looked up at 
Masami. “I’m sorry. I’ll get it right next time.” 1 

“We should wait a while,” Masami replied calmly. J 

“Why? I can do it now!” Yurihara said almost shrieking, j 
her voice clearly echoing through the empty parking garage, j 
“That’s not the problem. We’re reaching the limit of what 


Boogiepop and Others I 137 


we can do in the school. We have to look for more prey 
elsewhere. But we need to prepare. Not only for more 
experiments, but for your food supply as well. We’ve taken 
care of both of them at the same time so far, but you need 
oilier forms of nourishment, don’t you?” he said gently, his 
lone showing a marked contrast to the horrific meaning behind 
Ins words. He rested his hand on her shoulder. 

“All right, we shall do as you say.” Yurihara nodded 
(ibediently. 


The day after Kusatsu Akiko vanished, Masami got 
involved in something a little out of the ordinary. 

During break, he was on his way back from returning a slide 
mler he'd borrowed from the teacher's room, when a female 
teacher came flying around the comer, extremely flustered. 

“Y-you! You’re on the discipline committee, aren’t you?!” she 
asked, her face brightening the moment she saw Masami. 

“Yes, Saotome, 1-D,” Masami replied. 

“Thank god you’re here! Please keep watch! Don’t let her 
get away!” she shouted, and continued on down the hall. 

“.?” Masami looked puzzled, and walked in the direction 

i hat she had come from. It was the staff bathroom. 

Since it had been a female teacher, he poked his head 
ihrough the door. He had no particular enthusiasm for ladies 
restrooms, but he didn’t hesitate at all in his actions. He simply 
walked straight inside. 

But once inside, he was badly shocked. 

“Oh, it’s you, Saotome-kun,” said Kirima Nagi, in the flesh, 














138 I Kouhei Kadono 


standing smack dab in the middle of the white room, nodding 
at him. I 

“S-sempai, what’s going...?” He didn’t need to finish. The 
moment he asked, he noticed the unlit cigarette in her hand. 
“That’s...!” I 

“Yeah, well, you know how it is,” she said, making no 
effort to hide it. | 

“They caught you, didn’t they? But why.. .and in a place 
like this?” j 

“Whatever,” Nagi gave him a half grin. It made quite an j 
impact. It was this sort of impression that had made him fall in 
love with her in the first place. | 

“Sempai, um...” he tried to talk further. | 

She cut him off. “Sorry again about that other thing. I still 1 

think it’s better for you this way.” I 

“Oh, no, that’s...” j 

“Oh, hey, you were 1-D, weren’t you?” j 

“Yeah...” j 

“Were you friends with Kusatsu Akiko?” 

Masami thought his heart was going to leap out of his 
mouth. j 

“Er, n-not really...” he mumbled. 

Nagi glared at him. “You knew her?” 

“I went out with her once.” 

“On a date?” 

“No! I mean, uh, it was like...” he said, scrambling to 
form a coherent sentence 

Nagi looked at his face, and grinned again. “Not what I’m 
asking. You notice her acting weird lately ?’ ’ 

“Well, yeah, I guess so.” 



Boogiepop and Others I 139 


“How long?” 

“Maybe.. .two or three weeks?” 

“Matches up...” Nagi whispered to herself. 

Masami felt a shiver run down his spine, but he didn’t let it 
show. 

“Matches what?” 

“Mm? Oh, never mind,” Nagi said evasively. 

“Something happen to Kusatsu? If there’s anything I can 
do to help, sempai...” he pressed. 

“Nah, it’s nothing important.” 

“Of course it’s important. I mean, this is deliberate, isn’t 
it?” he said, taking the cigarette out of Nagi’s hand. 

“Hey, Saotome-kun,” Nagi said, troubled. 

“It’s something big enough that you’re deliberately getting 
yourself suspended, isn’t it? Let me tell the teachers.” 

“They won’t do anything! Teachers are nothing but wage 
slaves,” she said coldly. 

Masami couldn’t argue with that. He had suggested it 
precisely because he had the same opinion. If they left things 
up to the teachers, everything would be forgotten in no time. 

“Then...” he persisted. 

Nagi took his hand and held it tightly. 

“Thanks, but no. You’re normal, and you shouldn’t have 
.mything to do with this.” 

“But...” he said as three male teachers came stomping into 
ilie ladies room. 

“You again!” they shouted at Nagi. 

Nagi was unaffected. 

“Um...” Masami tried talking to them, but they didn’t even 
look at him. One of them took the cigarette out of his hand, and 







140 I Konhei Kadono 


said, “This is evidence!” thrusting it out towards Nagi. 

She said nothing. ! 

She was hauled off to the guidance office like a wanted 
criminal. ] 

Masami followed after her, looking worried, but one of the 
teachers told him to go back to his room, so he simply watched 
them leave. 

There was nobody else around, and the color on his face 

slowly faded. 1 

66 ?? 

From down the hall, he heard the office door slam open. ' 
All Masami could do is turn and walk away. There was no 
emotion left on his face. 

66 95 

Nagi’s choice of words kept echoing through his mind. 

She had said, “Matches up.” All he could think was that it 
matched up to the first girl who had ‘run away,’ Suzumiya 
Takako. j 

Nagi knew something. 

Something too close for comfort. 

66 ?? 

His mask cracked for just a second, letting out a glimpse of 
his true face underneath. j 

His eyes were withered, inhuman, like a man who has jusl 
wandered in the desert for a week with no water and let sand 
creep into every pore on his body. 1 







“Imirima Nagi? Why would she?!” cried out Yurihara 
when she heard Masami’s story. They were in the pool 
changing rooms where thankfully nobody ever dared to come 
11 iside during winter. 

“I don’t know. But she’s clearly caught wind of 
something.” 

Masami told Yurihara about Nagi six days into her 
suspension. During that period, he was stalking the girls that they 
had planned next to entrap and kill. It quickly became obvious 
i hat Nagi was taking them down one after the other—all of 
kusatsu Akiko’s Junior High school friends. Today, he’d seen 
her attack Kinoshita Kyoko, and make her promise never to take 
drugs again. 

In the shadows of the school, it was clear that she was 
playing out some sort of hero fantasy of her own. 

“Why?! We did everything right!” Yurihara cried out 
hysterically. 



















142 I Kouhei Kadono 

“Yes, we did. Which is why she hasn’t caught wind of us 
yet,” he said quietly. But inside, he knew just how precarious 
of a position that they were in. If they had been just a little bit 
late in disposing of Kusatsu Akiko, Nagi would most certainly 
have deduced what was wrong with her. It had been a very ^ 
close shave. 1 

“We can’t kill anyone else from Shinyo Academy. We j 
don’t want her suspecting that you're a student here.” 1 

“Why don’t we just kill her?” Yurihara suggested. ] 

“Not yet. I don’t know how much she knows or how she 
found out. we need to know that at least.” 1 

“She needs to die! We won’t leave any evidence behind! 
And she’s crazy; nobody’ll notice when she vanishes.” 1 

It was obvious that they were in the same class. Yurihara 
knew Nagi all too well. I 

“But her current parents are very rich. And she’s got 
several hundred million yen in the bank. She disappears, and I 
guarantee you that it won’t be put down as a runaway. When 
money gets involved, there’s no telling who’ll come out of the 
woodwork. That’s how human society works.” | 

Yurihara remained silent. She looked at the floor, bit her 
lip, and then whispered petulantly, “.. .Is that the only reason'/" 
“Eh?” 

“Is that the only reason you won’t kill Kirima Nagi? 
There’s another reason, isn’t there?” 1 

“What are you talking about?” ] 

“Saotome-kun, don’t lie to me. You’re in love with her, 
aren’t you?” ] 

Masami looked away. 

“Wh-why do you think that?” ] 



Boogiepop and Others I 143 

“Am I wrong? I’m right, aren’t I?” she asked as she looked 
up and glared at him. 

“I..Masami started to say, when suddenly... 

“—what are you doing in here. Echoes?” a cheery girl’s voice 
isked, as the door to the changing room swung open. 

From the stripes on her uniform, it was clear that she was 
i In i d year. And a bright and sunny girl at that. 

“Uh, oops? My mistake, sorry!” she said, scratching her 

I lead. 

“Ah! D-don’t—!” Masami yelled, pretending that the girl 
had caught them in the middle of a romantic moment. It was 
okay, though. She hadn’t overheard them. 

“Sorry! Sorry! You two have fun now!” she commented 
smiling. She was clearly blushing from embarrassment as she 

.larted to duck back out the door. 

But at that moment, Yurihara’s body shot forward like a 
luillet. She let out a hiss like a king cobra, and sank her teeth into 
i lie back of the third year girl’s neck. 

There was a sharp cracking sound. 

“W-wha?!” cried Masami, trying to get between them, but 
he was already too late. She had bitten through the girl’s spine, 
killing her instantly. It was over before the girl even realized 
what was happening to her. 

“What the hell were you thinking?! I just told you not to 
kill at school!” Masami yelled, turning on Yurihara. 

But when he saw her face, his manner changed. 

She was as white as a sheet and shivering violently. “H- 
liow.. .how is he here?” she whimpered with her latest victim s 

Mood splattered across her mouth. 

“What do you mean?” 






144 I Kouhei Kadono 


“Him! Echoes! He’s here!” fl 

“Who or what is Echoes?” 1 

“My ‘original’! The over-evolved man!” She hugged her 
hands to her chest, but that didn’t stop her shaking. | 

“C-calm down! You can explain later. First, we have to get rid 
of this body!” Masami yelled, glancing down at the girl’s corpse. 
Looking closely, he recognized her face. “She’s.. .Kamikishiro 
Naoko?” | 

She was one of Nagi’s few precious friends. That’s why 
he knew her. Nagi had taken a year off in Junior High due to 
illness, but she had been in the same class as Kamikishiro at the 
time. ■ 

(Why is Nagi’s friend...? Is this just a coincidence? No, it 
can’t be...) 

He felt the last piece fall into place. Just as they had '! 
disposed of Kusatsu Akiko in the nick of time, once again Fate 
had given them a desperately needed chance. I 

“Don’t worry, Manticore. The advantage is on our side.” 1 
He smiled, and gently put his arms around her trembling 
shoulders. 

“Eh?” she questioned as she looked up, and was greeted 
with a warm and knowing nod and a luminous smile. | 


They carried Kamikishiro Naoko’s body to a secret room 
in the basement. Yurihara leaned over the corpse and began 
disposing of the evidence. fl 

As he watched, Masami grinned. I 

(I’ll make sure you live through this. I promise. Whatever 1 




Boogiepop and Others I 145 


happens to me.. .it’ll be worth it.) 

A single line of a song ran through Saotome Masami’s 
mind. 

For some reason, it was not a song by his beloved group 
The Doors. He had forgotten the exact name of it. It was just a 
song that he had overheard somewhere and barely remem- 
liered. He couldn’t even remember the whole line; just a 
.nippet echoing through his mind like a broken record. 

It was a song by a band that wasn’t anywhere near as 
l.nnous as The Doors; they were a freak band called Oingo 
Hoingo that were famous for their weirded-out tunes. The 
name of the song was “No One Lives Forever.’’ 

The pop, cheery tune didn’t match the sinister name, nor 
the blood-ridden lyrics. Masami began singing under his 
heath. 


“...No one 

, no 

one, no one, no one, no one no one no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 

one 

no 



146 I Kouhei Kadouo 


one no one no one no one no one no one no one no one no 

one no one no one no one no one no one no one no one no 

one no one no one no one no one no one no one no one no 

one no one no one no one no one no one no one no one no 

one no one...” fl 

His smile continued till the rest of the phrase, “lives 1 

forever,” came back to him. The smile contained more than the* 
radiance of one prepared to sacrifice his life for the object of j 
his affections—there was a hint of evil and of deeply personal 
pleasure to it. fl 

In front of him came a sound like wind whistling through a 
crack in the wall as the man-eater consumed the girl. J 


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K mikishiro Naoko is dead. You should forget 
.ihout her,” was all that was written in the letter. It looked 
like a computer print out. 

“What?” I picked up the envelope and studied it for a 
moment, but all it had listed on it was my name, “Kimura 
Akio” and home address. There was no return address at all, 
.md judging from the stamp, it had been posted in the same 
i own where I attended high school. 

At first, I thought it must be a prank by one of my old 
classmates. My little fling with Kamikishiro Naoko kinda 
became public knowledge after it ended. 

But it seemed a little late for that. Two full years had 
passed since I’d last seen her, and it was a little late for this kind 
of prank. 

Still, she vanished abruptly during my second year, and I still 
don’t know why she disappeared. I don’t think anybody 
knows. Did anybody ever really know what she was 
thinking? 











150 I Kouhei Kadono 


Kamikishiro Naoko and I first hooked up in a pretty 1 
strange kinda way. | 

This all took place not too long after the spring term had 
begun. 1 

I was smoking a Caster Mild around the back of the school 
one day at lunch, when a boy and a girl showed up. Luckily for 
me, I was hiding behind a tree, so they didn’t see me. 1 

There was kind of a long, meaningful silence, so I took 
that opportunity to hide even better, hoping to get an eyeful. 

But they barely even looked at each other, they just sort ol 
stood there, fidgeting. j 

(Ah ha...) I 

Just as I got it figured out, the girl opened her mouth. 

“Did you.. .read the letter?” she said, clasping her hands. 
“Mm,” he said evasively. 

The whole thing was kinda old fashioned, and I was just 
about to lose interest, when the boy suddenly looked around 
nervously and asked, “You are alone.. .right?” 

“Hunh?” she blinked. And so did I. Most people usually 
come alone at moments like this. Of course, there are some 
losers that need their friends to goad them on. 

“So you’re not gonna beat me up or something?” he asked, 
relieved. 

What, was this kid afraid of girls or something? j 

Then I finally noticed. i 

His slippers were blue, and hers were yellow. Our school 
has it set up so that each grade has a different color. I was 
wearing green ones. The boy was a first year, and the girl was 



Boogiepop and Others I 151 


11iiid year. 

“No, nothing like that!” she exclaimed. The moment that I 
Knew she was my sempai, she started looking extremely 
1 'iown up.. .and hot. I’m pretty picky when it comes to girls, 

Imi I could tell she had on makeup that subtly made her eyes 
look bigger. But it was natural makeup, so that the teachers would 
never notice. It was also obvious that she worked pretty hard at 
11 inking herself always look cheerful. 

But the other one, this first year kid, looked like a child. 

I le was a baby-faced pretty boy, but kinda ordinary. But hey, 
some girls are into that. 

“Then what is it?” he asked the older girl vacantly. 

“You know...” she said, turning red and staring at her feet. 

I ler expression clearly showed that it wasn’t anything but 
what it was. 

(Hunh...) 

But I also knew how the kid felt. He couldn’t figure out 
u 7/y. Why was this pretty senior asking a kid like him out? It 
was natural to be dubious instead of happy. 

Course now I’m in college, I know loads of girls who have 
boyfriends younger than them. But that just doesn’t happen in 
high school. Up to high school, you’re in a sort of unmis- 
lakable feudal system. A girl could date a college guy or a 
lunior High kid or anyone she wanted to outside of school, but 
i here was an unwritten rule that she could only date boys her 
year or older on the inside. 

“Urn.. .Kamikishiro-san?” he asked, very troubled. This is 
where I learned her name. 

“What?” she replied, looking at him with a mixture of 
anxiety and expectation. Men find this kind of look hard to say 







152 I Kouhei Kadono 


no to. 

But he was looking away and didn’t see it. 1 

“I’m sorry! I just can’t do this!” he sort of shrieked as he 
turned and ran away. 1 

“Ah...!” Kamikishiro almost chased after him, but stopped 
herself. Her shoulders slumped. 1 

From behind, I could see her head hung down and a little 
sideways. Somehow, this angle made her all the more I 

beautiful, like some sort of female Don Quixote, fighting the 
invisible school rules. Gotta say, it impressed the shit out of J 
me. ;l 

While I was off feeling all impressed, she suddenly rolled 
her head around like an old man getting out of the bath. 1 

“Not again,” she said exhaustedly, and then spun round 
and looked right at me. | 

I didn’t have time to hide. Our eyes met. 

“Enjoy the show? Ah ha ha!” she laughed, and strolled 
over to me. She’d known that I was there the whole time. 

“Uh, n-no. I-I didn’t mean to watch,” I said, scrambling. 
She reached out her hand, and said, “My fee,” as she 
pulled a Caster Mild out of my pocket. “Damn, I’ve been 
dying for a nicotine hit all day.” j 

She stuck the cigarette between her lips and looked at me 
expectantly. I hurriedly lit it. 

“Pretty smooth,” she said with a smirk. She let out a big 
puff of smoke. Her manner was the polar opposite of a 
moment before. I 

But looking at her profile, I could make out the tear tracks. 
“You were serious,” I said, expecting her to deny it and 


move on. 



Boogiepop and Others I 153 


But instead, she just nodded and said, “You bet I was.” 

She slumped into a crouch and continued, “Serious as I’ve 
rver been.” She hugged her knees to her chest and buried her 
l uce in her skirt. 

“Why can’t we pick who we fall in love with? It would be 
so much easier...” she said forlornly. 

“Well, yeah, true, but frankly, I think you’re better off 
Cdting rejected by a guy like that,” I said in a very honest 
lone. 

She looked up. Her tears had made her eyeliner run a bit. 

I Inexpectedly, she said, “.. .Don’t.” 

“What?” 

“Don’t be nice to me. I don’t want to fall for you too.” 

“What?!” I yelped, completely off balance now. She stood 
up, no longer crying, and smiled. “Just kidding. But you’re a 
good guy. So, what’s your name?” 

“Kimura, 2-B.” 

“I’m Kamikishiro, 3-F. You planning on going to class this 
nftemoon?” 

“Not really.” I had Modem Japanese and Political Science 
left, but I was planning on skipping them. 

“Then I’ll buy you a MOS Burger. You know, pay you 
back for cheering me up. C’mon, I know a way out the back,” 
she winked naughtily. 

And that’s basically how we got started. 

That’s pretty much what we were like the whole time. We 
were never really ‘in love,’ as such. We might have looked 

I I ke we were from the outside or something, but she never 
really fell for me. At least, I don’t think she did. That was two 
years ago. 





V 



.Eventually, Kamikishiro did convince that first year 
kid—his name was Tanaka Shiro—into going out with her. 
When she attacked, no one could stop her. j 

One time, I just had to tell her, “I just don’t know what 
you see in him.” 

She often called me up and asked me to hang out with her. 

Yeah, you could call it a date. We’d watch movies, eat 
out, shoot pool and bet money on the game. We’d also do 
other stuff too, but you know how it is. 

“Well, you see.. .he’s an archer.” 

“An archer? On the archery team?” 

If I remember it correctly, we were on one of those slow 
moving ferris wheels at an amusement park. It was like a 
picture postcard of those cheesy high school dates that you see in 
manga. 

“Yeah. First time I saw him, he was still in Junior High 
and was in some contest. You ever seen one? They all line up 
and shoot. The first one to miss loses. It was pretty damn cool. 




Boogiepop and Others I 155 


l lc did pretty well, but eventually lost. But his eyes.. .when he 
i ii ed at that tiny little target so far away there was this glitter in 
ihem. Gave me goosebumps. And then, he’d let the arrow 
lly...and swoosh!” 

“Sounds kinda shallow...” I said, somewhat disgusted. All 
lliat had nothing whatsoever to do with Tanaka himself or with 
Ins personality. Of course, he’d be reluctant. 

“I’d much rather play around with someone like you, 
l\ imu- kun. You’re more fun. And I got no plans to take up 
.11 chery myself. But I can’t shake the feeling that kid is meant 
lor bigger things.” 

“And I’m not, you mean? Ouch,” I grimaced. The words 
someone like you’ made things crystal clear. Nothing I could 
do when she put it that way. 

“Yep. You’re like me that way. I’m a mess. And, frankly, 
so are you, Kimu-kun.” 

“Can’t deny that,” I said, chuckling. It was true. If it 
wasn’t, then why would I be dating a girl who I knew full well 
hud another guy on the side? Still, I was falling for her pretty 
hard by this point. Yet I never even considered trying to get her to 
break things off with Tanaka. It wasn’t just a mess, either. It was 
a freaking train wreck just waiting to happen. And on top of that, 
she was hardly the only girl I was seeing. Yeah, we were exactly 
ilie same. 

“I’ll be honest. Shiro -kun doesn’t get me at all,” she said, 
sighing bitterly. “He tries not to hurt me, but he always talks 
kinda standoffish, and that just hurts me more. He just doesn’t get 
lliat at all.” 

“Hunh. Can’t say I do either.” 

“I’m just getting in his way. I don’t think he really needs to 






156 I Kouhei Kadono 


be in love yet.” 

Sometimes, I found her nearly impossible to understand. 
It’s easy to do the typical guy thing and just bitch that girls 
are all complicated and stuff, but her level of complexity was 
clearly at a notch or two above the other girls her age. I’m I 
pretty sure most of them wouldn’t have been able to follow hn 
either. As it was, the only friends that I knew she had were me 
and some girl in her class called Kirima Nagi. That girl was even 
weirder than Kamikishiro, so I guess that’s why they got ] 
along. Truthfully, Kirima was better looking than Kamikishiro. 
but I always did like Kamikishiro better. Even now. 1 

“But do the two of us need it? I guess so. Feels like I’m 
kinda incomplete on my own, you know?” I 

“That’s it exactly! See, we’re the same,” she gave me a 
tiny smile, leaned forward, and put her lips on mine. 1 

It was no big deal. It was not exactly the first time we’d 
kissed. 

“.. .you do that with Tanaka?” I asked curtly. j 

“Hell, no,” she grinned, denying it instantly. 

She was always at her most attractive when she wasn’t 
outright trying to be sexy or to act cute. I never figured out why. 

I was pretty sure that the letter was a prank, but something 
about it just kept bugging me. I decided to skip class and head 
over to the town where I’d gone to high school. Call it a 
hunch, but whoever had sent the letter probably lived there. 1 
My family still lives there, but I didn’t swing by; I just 
headed straight for Shinyo Academy. I didn’t think any of the 


Boogiepop and Others I 157 


i m rent students were behind it, but my legs took me in that 
■ In ection anyway. 

“Ah! Akio! Over here!” someone called as I waited for the 
Iii is to arrive. 

I turned around and found a girl who’d been in my same 
class during my first and third years—Miyashita Touka. The 
I n st thing that I noticed was the huge Spalding bag over her 
shoulder. 

“Hey, what’s up?” I replied. 

“What’re you doing back here? It’s not even New Year’s 
vet!” Miyashita was a cute girl, but I’d never made a pass at 
her—which is probably why we were still friends. 

“Yeah, no reason in particular. You?” 

“You didn’t hear? I failed exams. I’m a ronin. On my way 
i o cram school as we speak.” 

“Oh, right.” 

“Yep. Guess you forgot all about us when you moved up, 
Imh?” 

“You sound bitter. Fighting with that designer boyfriend 
ol yours?” I asked, knowing that she’d been dating an older 
hoy in that line of work since her second year. 

“Do not even talk to me about him. He never even calls!” 

she said, pouting. 

“He’s probably trying not to disrupt your studies.” 

“Nah, he studies more than me. He’s trying to get some 
sort of award. Makes me sick.” 

“Hmmm...” 

“What about you? Got a college girl yet?” 

I made a face. “Nope.” 

“Aw, that third year girl still dragging you back?” 








158 I Kouhei Kadono 


“She was a third year then. She’d be twenty now.” fl 
“You’re.. .you’re counting her birthdays? She dumped 
you and vanished! Give up on her already!” I 

“It’s none of your business,” I spat. 1 

She looked pissed, but she grabbed my hand. I 

“W-what?” I 

“Come with me. We are having tea.” ;■ 

Still pissed, she dragged me into a nearby cafe by the 1 
name of Tristan. j 

“What about cram school?” 1 

“Screw it. I’m gonna fail again this year anyway,” she said 
recklessly. I 

She plunked herself down in a booth and shouted at the 
counter, “Two American coffees!” She then turned on me to 
tell me exactly what I already knew, “You’re an idiot.” 9 
“I know,” I replied petulantly. 1 

“No, you don’t! You think you’re some sort of hero, don’t 
you? What with that mess two years ago,” Miyashita a 

announced. She’d always been like this, sort of self-righteous 
and inclined to stick her nose into everything. I 

“I do not. That was just...” I 

“It wasn’t you, was it? Her lover. You didn’t even know 
who it was you were taking the fall for, did you?” I 

Two years ago, after Kamikishiro had vanished, they I 
found a blanket, pillow and electric heater in a storage room 
near the gym, where nobody ever went. It was obvious fl 
somebody had snuck into the school and had been living there. 
At first, they thought it was a drifter, but then they found an I 
accessory that had belonged to Kamikishiro (according to one 



Boogiepop and Others I 159 


i »l (he girls in her class), and it turned into a student body 
scandal. 

I don’t know what kind of people Kamikishiro’s parents 
were, but their daughter had disappeared and the school 
uspected her involvement in illicit activities, yet the parents 
made no protest at all to the accusations. In her continued 
ibsence, the school made preparations to forcibly expel her. At 
which point, a certain male student announced that he'd been her 
|< iver, and all hell broke loose after that. 

“She didn’t bring any outsiders into the school. Don’t 
expel her,” he’d said. 

The teachers didn’t even pretend to believe him. But the 
.indents made a huge fuss about it and just to calm things 
down, the school suspended the boy and relented on 
kamikishiro’s punishment. 

But Kamikishiro never did show up again. Her name was 
even kicked off the rosters at graduation, due to a lack of credits. 

It all amounted to nothing in the end. There was never really 
anything to the story. As a result of the commotion, the boy got his 
comeuppance, though. He received a series of Dear John letters 
I mm all of his many girlfriends, telling him that he was a loser and 
I hat they were dumping his sorry ass. 

“.. .No, I knew who Kamikishiro was seeing,” I told 

Miyashita with a faint smile. 

“Liar.” 

“No, really.” 

“Then, who? Who’d she drop you for?” 

“An alien. He took her with him back into space.” 

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than a slap 
echoed through the cafe. Miyashita had belted me one across 







160 I Kouhei Kadono 


the face. 

“Get a grip on yourself! Be a man, and just move on!” she 
said, furious. ] 

Wasn’t like she had any special feelings for me, mind you 
She was just that kind of girl. 1 

“S-sorry,” I said, rubbing my cheek sheepishly. I 

But I hadn’t been joking. That was exactly what 
Kamikishiro had said to me. 



3 . 


“M\.imu- kun, do you think human existence is justified?” 
k ainikishiro asked, out of the blue one day. 

“Nope,” I said, instantly. I was getting used to her non- 
t(|uitors. 

“Dang, neither do I,” she sighed. 

We were lying next to each other on the bank of the river that 
tan along the road leading up to school. Since most of the 
indents took the bus, people hardly ever walked along this road. 
Ii was already dark out, and we could see stars above us. 

“Humans just aren’t that great. However much our 
i ivilization advances, we can’t seem to do anything to make 
ourselves happier,” I said, obviously, trying to impress her 
with something profound. 

“Yeah.. .maybe,” she replied. She seemed kinda serious. 

“Why do you ask?” 

“I just met this guy, but...” 

“You in love again? What about Tanaka?” I asked, surprised. 




162 I Kouhei Kadono 


“Yeah. Yeah, I am, but let’s put that aside for a moment,” sin 

said, sitting up. She gazed at the wavering reflection of the city 

lights on the moving water of the river. “He’s from outer space.” , 

She looked serious. She had to be joking, but she didn’t ] 

seem to be waiting for me to laugh, so I took it as some sort ol 

metaphor, and just nodded. “Mm-hmm.” I 

“But I don’t think he’s from some other planet. It’s like, in 

space there’s this big consciousness, and it sent him here to, 

you know, ‘test mankind’ or something. Kinda like the 

inspection robots that always show up in Hoshi Shinichi’ s I 

short stories? But he’s not a machine or anything. It’s just thai 

his body isn’t something that exists on Earth. It can, like, turn 

into anything. So, when he landed on earth, he disguised > 

himself as human and tried to examine the world, but there 

were a few mistakes, and he didn’t quite manage to pull off 

being human quite right.” 1 

(( •>’) 

“He’s evolved a little too much. He’s got more power j 
within him than any human will ever have in a thousand 
years—no, in ten thousand years! Apparently, space is just so 
big that they couldn’t match him up with Earth time just right, 
so his true nature came out ahead of time, and the government or 
some kind of big corporation got a hold of him. But the idiots j 
thought that he was just some mutant, and they did all sorts of 
experiments on him and cloned him. But, unlike him, that cloned 
copy turned into a brutal man-eater.” ! 

I no longer had the foggiest idea what she was talking 
about. I elected to keep quiet until I could pick up the thread 
again. 

“He wanted to communicate all this, but he couldn’t. He 




Boogiepop and Others I 163 


was programmed in such a way that he couldn’t talk to 
limnans directly. It was so that he wouldn’t reveal his true 
identity to anyone. Which was fine. I mean, after all, he was 
.nit here to test humans and see if they would be nice to him. 

I lr wasn’t here to negotiate or make speeches or anything. He 
w as just here to observe, so they named him Echoes, since all 
In can do is reflect back the words that people spoke to him.” 

(4 ?? 

“But the man-eater killed everyone in the research facility 
and escaped. Now, it’s off hiding inside of human society 
a nnewhere. But Echoes came after it, and he.. .and he met me.” 

“What’s he gonna do if he catches it?” 

“Fight it, I guess. If he doesn’t, it’ll just take over the world 
ni something.” 

“But he’s an alien. Why does he care what happens here?” 

“Yeah, true.. .basically, he’s just nice.” 

“That’s it?” 

“Isn’t it enough? Isn’t niceness the best motivation that 
oineone can have?” she asked, looking at me kinda solemn. 
‘>he then let out a sigh. “Half of this is just me reading between 
i lie lines. I think he’s got some sort of other complicated 
leason too. You know, something about maintaining the 
balance of the planet. But if that was all.. .its kinda sad, don’t 
vou think?” she whispered pretty downcast. She looked on the 
verge of tears, which made me uncomfortable. 

I felt the kind of tightness in my chest that I thought that I’d 
left behind in Junior High. 

I cleared my throat to hide this feeling, and said delib¬ 
erately rough, “So, how the hell did this Echoes guy even 
explain all of this to you? I thought he couldn’t talk?” It was a 




164 I Kouhei Kadono 


stupid nitpick. ■ 

So she said, “Ah ha ha! You’re too smart! I can’t fool 1 
you,” and cackled. fl 

“That’s all?” I asked. The story was a bit too detailed to hi 
dismissed like this. I 

“Yep, I was just kidding. Stupid little fairy tale—” 1 

Kamikishiro said with an impish grin stealing over the cornu 
of her mouth. I 

We sat in silence for a while. a 

She was the first to break the silence. “But if Echoes wiir 
he’ 11 probably go back to his home in the stars.” 1 

“Sounds romantic to me. Kinda like the tanabata festival 
“I wonder what he’ll tell them about us humans. I don’t 
suppose there’s much chance of him saying, ‘Don’t worry, i 
they’re a good species,’ is there?” I 

“Where is he now?” I 

“Hiding at the school. Don’t tell anyone.” 1 

I laughed. “Don’t worry, I won’t.” jfl 

Stupid promise. 1 

Because of that promise, I got myself suspended and had 
to lower my ambitions for college. But since I turned all my e 
friends into enemies and spent the rest of school isolated, I had 
nothing to do but study, and eventually, I used my grades to make 
up for the poor conduct report. J 

“The stars are so far away,” Kamikishiro said, gazing up ai 
the night sky. I 

“They’re farther away than our lives,” I said. I’m not sure 
what her story really meant, but she’d managed to get the * 
answer that she’d wanted out of me, as I told her, “But if you 
open your heart to Echoes, then I’m sure he ’ll learn to like J 


Boogiepop and Others I 165 


humanity.” 

I “You think so?” 

I “I want to think so. Because the story you told me leaves 
ns no salvation.” 

I “Yeah. I hope you’re right,” she said, turning towards me 
mid smiling. 

[ But at the time, I didn’t want her to smile. I wanted her to 
col angry with me for saying something so stupid. I tried to 
think of something even stupider to say, but instead we headed 
hack home. I walked off down the road to the station, and she 
went back towards the school, saying that she'd take the bus. 

That’s the last time I ever saw her. 

She didn’t come to school the next day. Or the day after 
i hat. She never came again. 

Two cups of American coffee appeared in front of 
M iyashita Touka and me. Miyashita picked up on the waitress’ 
look of keen interest and cooled down a little. 

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have slapped you. Still...” she said in a 
hushed tone. 

“Don’t worry. I know. I’m an idiot.” 

“I really do think that you need to let her go. She’s.. .what 
was her name?” 

“Kamikishiro Naoko.” 

“Oh, right. I didn’t know her very well, but I think if she 
really did like you, Akio, that she’d want you to move on 

I now. That’s why she didn’t say anything when she left. Make 

sense?” 








166 I Kouhei Kadono 


“That.. .that’d be nice.” fl 

Truth is, I’m pretty sure she never thought twice about nir 
Eventually, Miyashita Touka let me go, forcibly exhortinj' 
me to cheer up. fl 

We parted at the door to the coffee shop. 1 

“Take care. You know, you really ought to do somethin.!’ 
about that hero complex of yours. Gonna get you into trouble 
someday. You’ve got tests to study for.” 1 

“I guess,” she said with her head to one side. “But still.. 
“Suit yourself,” I said, turning to leave. It was then that slu 
called after me. 1 

“•—Kimura-kun!” j 

I looked back and nearly tripped over my own feet. I 
It was certainly Miyashita Touka standing there, but for 
some reason, I felt like I was looking at a completely differeni 
person—a boy. It was as if she’d transformed or something. 1 
“Wh-what?” 1 

“Kamikishiro Naoko performed her duty admirably. You 
should perform your own duty, and make her proud. That’s the 
only thing you can do for her,” she proclaimed like she was ? 
giving some speech on stage. 1 

Then she spun on her heel and was lost in the crowd. I 

<6 99 

I stared after her, watching the crowd flow onwards. 1 

When my bus reached the stop in front of Shinyo , 

Academy, it was already past sunset, and there were no 
students in sight. Apparently, even the sports teams gave up on 



Boogiepop and Others I 167 


i h .id ice and called it a day, once it got dark. This must be why 
m me of our teams has ever even so much as qualified for the 
h.ii ional tournaments. It hadn’t changed a bit since I was last 
ihrre. 

The gates were closed. Outsiders had to identify themselves 
hut an intercom to get in, so I passed right by them. 

1 entered the school through a gap between the fences that 
i ainikishiro had shown me. 

The darkened school grounds were silent like an 
abandoned building. The towering school building looked 
in ida like a giant, looming tombstone. 

Until about a year before, I had actually come here every 
ilay. But now, I was a stranger. 

Not much that I can say that was good about my years in high 
( Iiool, but I felt a pain in my chest when I thought about how 
1 1 111 e connection that I had now to my past. I remember 
l. ainikishiro, and the abuse that I took after the incident like it 
was yesterday, but the rest of it was all far too long ago. 

a 55 

Why did I come here? If I was looking for the source of 
ilie letter, this place wasn’t going to be of any use. 

But this high school was the only remaining connection that I 
had with Kamikishiro. Someone else had moved into her 
apartment. There were no traces of her left. 

There was nowhere else for me to go. 

She just wasn’t here. 

Yeah. Somewhere inside, I had wondered if Kamikishiro 
herself had sent the letter. 

But that was probably wrong. Even here in school, she 
wasn’t around. The letter was nothing but a prank. 







168 I Kouhei Kadono 


Everything was over. It was all in the past. #| 

a ?? 

I looked up at the sky. It was cloudy, and I couldn’t see the 
stars. And yet, I felt like I could see them like I had when I I 
used to lay with her on the river bank. I 

She had told me all of her secrets, metaphorically. Told me, 
not Tanaka Shiro, not anyone else. And I never understood wh;ii 
she meant by it. 1 

Wasn’t that enough? That’s all the reason I needed to love 
her for the rest of my life. No matter how much I fell in love 
with some other girl, she will always live inside of me in the way 
that she was then—impossible to understand, and more than a 
little crazy. I 

“Life is brief, young maiden, fall in love. ” 1 

I whispered a snatch of the gondola song that she always ■ 

used to sing while I wandered around the school. 

I found myself in front of the gym. Suddenly, I wanted to 
see the storage room where the interloper had hidden himsel f. 
Their exact relationship remained a mystery, but it was the last 
known trace of her. I 

I grabbed a flashlight from the emergency supplies, and shone 
it around the gym. I had forgotten half of the features of the place. 
Guess I really wanted to forget all about high school. 

I found some kind of door or cover or something down by 
the floor, near the main entrance. Figured that must be it. So I 
hunkered down and opened it. 1 

It was just an empty space. Iron pillars, concrete floor, bare 
ceiling. The foundations of the gym, I guess. Designed to absorb 



Boogiepop and Others I 169 


i lie impact of an earthquake. 

I’d been here three years and never known it was here. 

(Guess this isn’t it...) 

I turned to leave. 

But something moved near my foot. 

There was a dry rustle. 

“Mm...?” 

I shone the light at my feet. 

There was something black and dried. I thought it was a 
glove at first, maybe forgotten by a workman, but it was too 
11 1 i n for that. 

It wasn’t meant to be put on over a hand. It was a hand. 

u 11 

I stared at it in shock for a moment.. .then screamed. 

It was a mummified human hand. 

(W-w-w-w-what the hell is this?!) 

My knees gave out and I fell on my ass. 

When Kamikishiro had vanished, she hadn’t been the only 
one. A number of other students had vanished both before and 
li ter her. 

I’d never connected them before.. .but I could think of no 
oilier reason why a hand would be lying on the floor of the 
school. 

Maybe it was because I’d kicked it or maybe it was the 
exposure to the outside air, whichever the case, the hand 
n umbled away to dust before my very eyes. And within 
seconds, there was nothing left of it at all. 

(What does it mean? What the hell happened here two 
years ago?) 

But there was nothing to give me those answers. There 











170 1 Kouhei Kadono 


was nothing for me to do but sit there in the dark, shuddering 
in fear... 





-> «. 



























































“laLei, there’s a first year boy asking for you,” my 
classmate Mishima said. 

I looked up from my book and asked, “Who?” 

“Dunno. But he’s cute. Tch, the discipline committee 
president, eating all the young boys...” she cackled. 

I gave her a pained smile, stood up, and went into the hall. 

When he saw me, he bowed his head politely. “Niitoki- 
cmpai? I’m Tanaka Shiro, 1-D.” 

“Tanaka-kun? You wanted to see me?” 

“You were on the gate this morning, weren’t you?” 

One of the duties of the discipline committee members, 
which we all took turns doing, was to stand at the gate and 
monitor the students coming in and out. 

“Yeah. What about it?” 

“Did you see 3-F’s Kamikishiro-san arrive?” 

“Naoko-san? I know her, but no, she didn’t come today. 
Hut she’s nearly always late...” 

“She’s not in class either,” he said gravely. 







174 I Kouhei Kadono 


“Really? Must be skipping.” ■ 

“No,” he said, quite sure of himself. “Recently, she had 
some sort of reason why she had to come to school everyday ." 
(Is this kid in love with her... ?) 1 

Seemed like it. Maybe he was gonna ask her out today. 
“Hunh. I don’t know. If she’s not here, ask her tomorrow." 
“That might be too late!” he exclaimed anxiously. “You 
really don’t know anything?!” ] 

“You call her house?” I 

“There’s never anyone there.” fl 

“Eh?” I 

“Her parents are in the middle of an ugly divorce. Her 
mother’s gone to her parents’ house, and her father never comes 
home.” j 

“Really?” 1 

“Everyone in the apartment building ’ s talking about it. 1 
Everybody I asked told me all about it.” 1 

“Hunh...” I said. 1 

Suddenly, a voice cut in from the side. “You should ask j 
Kirima Nagi.” I 

Both of us swung around in surprise. My kouhai on the 
discipline committee, Saotome-kun, was standing there. 1 

“Masami? What do you...?” Tanaka-kun said, wide eyed. 
Later, I found out these two were in the same class. 1 

“I was just passing by; happened to overhear. Thought you 
might like to know.” 

“Know what?” 1 

“I don’t know any details, but Kamikishiro Naoko-sempai 
and Kirima Nagi have been friends since Junior High. She’s 
just off of suspension, so she might know something about 
Kamikishiro-sempai.” J 





Boogiepop and Others I 175 


I blinked. It was the first I’d heard of Naoko-san being 
1 1 lends with the legendary Kirima Nagi from the class next 
door. And here I thought I knew about most people in the 
school. 

“How do you know that?” I asked Saotome. 

“Oh, I asked Kirima Nagi out once. Picked up a few 
filings back then.” 

“You asked her out?!” 

It took guts to even talk to the Fire Witch. I’ll give him that. 

“She said no,” he admitted. 

“What class is this Kirima person in?” Tanaka-kun asked 
forcibly. Somehow, he’d never heard of her. 

“Second year, class D. Right next door.” 

“Okay!” 

“W-whoa, hold on there! No telling what’ll happen if you 
Hist burst in on her!” I said as if she were some sort of lion, 
but it was true. She’d punched out one boy’s front teeth 
before. 

I couldn’t let them go alone, so I followed them to class D. 

I asked a girl I knew near the door. “Ah, Suema-san. Is 
kirima-san here? I’ve got a first year boy who wants to talk to 
her...” 

“She’s not here today.” 

“Really? She came in the gate.” I knew my words to be 
Hue. I was on the gate. I’d seen her arrive. 

“So, she is here? I haven’t seen her come to class, though,” 
Suema-san said, shrugging. 

We looked at each other. 

“What.. .what’s going on?” Saotome-kun asked. 

“Sounds like she is involved,” Tanaka-kun said in a shrill 


voice. 








176 I Kouhei Kadono 


“Hmmm..I was seriously worried myself now. Naoko 
san and Kirima Nagi... what were they up to? i 

As we stood there in front of the door, someone asked, 
“Could I get in here?” We turned around to find Yurihara Minako 
the best student in the school, standing right before us. 

“Oh, sorry,” Saotome-kun said, moving aside. 1 

She nodded, and strode regally into the room like some 
sort of queen. 

The bell rang, so we all split up and headed back to our 
respective rooms. j 


“Naoko’s vanished. I can’t find her anywhere,” Kirima 
Nagi said in a place steeped in shadows. | 

The man with her said nothing. His expression never wavered 
Nagi grew irritated at his lack of reaction, and shook her head 
violently. 

“I called her cell, but she didn’t answer. You don’t know 
anything?” she pressed on. 

The man was unable to talk, so he simply shook his head 
slowly. j 

“She may have gotten caught in its net. That thing Naoko 
said was your sibling.” 

“.” The man did not respond. 

Kirima Nagi scowled at him. Finally, she spat, “We should 
never have listened to you. We should have just called the 
cops, or the Self-Defense Force. If the world knew about it, it 
would’ve just washed its hands of the whole business and 
vanished to some place where we couldn’t follow. But if Naoko’s 
dead, then we’re already too late... 













Boogiepop and Others I 177 


She buried her hands in her face, her nail digging into her 
cheeks and forehead. 

a ?? 

The man didn’t move. 

“Say something! You talked to Naoko, didn’t you?! Try 
nid let me know what you’re thinking!” Kirima Nagi shouted, 
I'rubbing his collar. It was a Brooks Brothers cotton shirt that 
kamikishiro Naoko had bought for him. 

“.” Even when she shook him roughly, he did 

nothing but stare back at her in silence. 

“God damn it! I will find you, Manticore!” she howled, 
uncharacteristically angry. “And you’re gonna help. Echoes!” 

He nodded. But, yes, there was something remote about 
that motion. 

As if he were monitoring Nagi’s reactions. 

It bugged the hell out of me, so I took gate duty again that 
i lay after school. In the morning, we had to check the cards as 
11 icy went through, but on the way home, the job was simply 
boring. 

“You are nosy,” laughed the first year kid who should 
have been on duty. He gave up his place happily. 

Nosy? 

I guess so. 

There’s a part of me that can’t stand to see something unclear, 
something uncertain. That part of me wants to fix those things. 

()nce when I was at a friend’s house, they left me alone in their 
room with a half-done jigsaw puzzle, and when they came back, I 
had already finished it. They were pretty angry too. 


































178 I Koiihei Kadono 


The reason that I was on the unpopular discipline 
committee, and the president of it, no less, was simply because 
of this “clarity impulse” of mine. I 

“Anyone?” “Who wants to do it?” they’d all ask, but 
nobody ever raised their hand. They just sat there in silence, j 
And before I knew it, my hand was up. 1 

It’s like a disease, I know. 1 

With Naoko-san missing, if I hadn’t been asked, I’d nevei 
have gotten involved, but now that I had been, I wouldn’t be 
able to sleep until I’d cleared things up. 1 

My friends tell me, “You’re like a big sister. There’s just 
something reliable about you,” which I took as a compliment 
(though, they may have been making fun of me.) But the truth 
is, it’s just my neurosis. 1 

(Talking to the Fire Witch is scary, but if I don’t, I can’t settle 
down!) I 

But even when most of the students had gone home, and 
the sky was starting to darken, Kirima Nagi had yet to appear. 

It was well past the time when the gate guard was free to 
go home, and I was starting to wonder what else I could do, 
when Tanaka-kun and Saotome-kun came up. 1 

“Ah, sempai! Did Kirima Nagi go home?” Saotome-kun 
asked. 

“No, not yet.” I 

“Oh,” said Tanaka-kun, hanging his head. j 

“Why don’t we look for her together? I’m sure she’s still in 
the school somewhere,” I suggested. 

“That’s what we were going to do,” Tanaka-kun nodded. 
“We were talking about it in the classroom.” 

“I’m a little worried about Kirima Nagi,” Saotome-kun said. 
She may have rejected him, but it seemed that he still liked her. 



Boogiepop and Others I 179 


“But where do you think she is?” 

“Somewhere where nobody would notice her.. .on the roof, 
i >i maybe under the gym? Oh, or the pool changing rooms...” 
Saotome-kun suggested. 

“Why would she be in a place like that?” Tanaka-kun said 
m an irritated voice. 

“I don’t know. But everyone knows her, so she must be 
someplace like that, or somebody would’ve noticed.” 

“Let’s check them out,” I said, and we headed back into 
ilie eerily quiet school. 


While on our way to the roof, I couldn’t help but ask, 
Tanaka-kun, were you and Naoko-san...?” 

“Um,” he said, worried. 

“Kamikishiro-sempai asked him out,” Saotome-kun 
interjected. 

“What?!” I yelped. 

“Masami! That was a secret!” 

“Don’t worry, sempai won’t tell.” 

I was still reeling as they spoke. “You’re joking, right?” 

“I certainly thought so. I kept asking her if it was a joke, 
hut she kept saying that she was serious.” 

“Hunh...” I stared at his face closely. 

“Please don’t tell anyone.” 

“Okay, I won’t. But still...” 

“It was pretty confusing, but I couldn’t think of a reason to 
say no, so I ended up going out with her.” 

“But I could swear that Naoko-san had a different 
I x>y friend...” 









180 I Kouliei Kadono 


“Yeah, she does. Second year guy named Kimura Akio. 
Never really worked up the nerve to ask about that...” 

“Kimura? He picked up Naoko-san too? But it can’t be l< 
serious with a guy like that...” 

Kimura-kun was from the class next to mine, and he was an 
infamous playboy. Legend had it that he’d made a pass at every 
second year girl in the entire school. He’d even flirted with me— 
the discipline committee president! 

“Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I was never able to figui 
out what she really wanted.” 

“Do you like Naoko-san?” 

“D-do I?” 

“Be clear,” my fixation popped right up and out of my 
mouth. 

“If we’re going to the roof, the fire escape round back is 
better,” Saotome-kun said, glancing around us. 

“Why?” 

“The door’s locked, isn’t it?” 

“Oh, right.” 

As we went round the back, we saw somebody coming 
down the fire escape. 

“Ah...!” 

We chased after them, but they were gone before we could 
get there. But they were tall, and probably male, so we didn’t 
chase them any further. Whoever it was had headed towards 
the gates and was probably going home. 

“If he was up there, than Kirima Nagi probably isn’t.” 

“Yeah. Let’s check the gym.” 

We went to the storage rooms under the gym. 

They were locked. But luckily for us, I was on gate duty, 
so I had a master key that would open any door in school. 



Boogiepop and Others I 181 

“Unh..Saotome-kun pushed the heavy door open, and 
went inside. 

“It was closed, so she’s probably not in here,” I said, 
peeking in. It was dark, so we turned on the lights. There was 
lust one small fluorescent light, though, and it didn’t penetrate 
l>;ist the piles of mats, springboards, and other gym equipment. 

“But she might be hiding somewhere,” Tanaka-kun said, 
moving to follow Saotome-kun inside. 

But Saotome-kun came walking back towards us, waving his 
hands. 

“Nobody here. And definitely no signs of anyone having 
been here.” 


“—Nothing here,” said Saotome Masami. Behind him 
were the blanket and heater that Echoes had used, and several 
scattered food wrappers. They were hidden in shadow, and 
li om where they stood at the entrance, Tanaka Shiro and 
Niitoki Kei weren’t able to see them. 

“Any cigarette butts?” Kei asked. 

Masami made a show of looking behind him, then shook his 
I icad. 

At his feet was a little bell that Kamiki shiro had kept on 
her school bag. 

“Let’s try somewhere else.” 

“Right. Saotome-kun, come on out of there. I'll lock up.” 

“Mm,” Masami said, leaving the evidence where it was, 
mi ning out the lights as he left. 

“Where should we look next?” Kei asked, locking the door 
and turning towards the two boys. 











182 I Kouhei Kadono 


“It just occurred to me, but maybe we should use the PA 
system to summon Kirima NagiMasami suggested. j 

He had confirmed the presence of Echoes, and he knew thai 
Echoes was presumably moving with Kirima Nagi. It was time to 
move the plan forward to stage two. 

“The PA system?” I said, blinking at Saotome-kun. 

“Yeah. That key can get us in the broadcast room, right?” 

“Well, yes, it can.. .but won’t we get in trouble?” I 

“Probably,” Saotome-kun admitted. “But there’s no other 
students around, and the only teacher here is the one on night 

watch. I’d be more surprised if anyone cares enough to yell al 
us.” 

“Mmm, well.. .it would be faster. Okay. I’ll handle the 
teacher.” 

“Thank you for this,” Tanaka-kun said apologetically. 

“Not like I’m doing it for you,” I said. “I’m worried about 
Naoko-san too.” Why was I being so snotty? I was irritating 
myself. I was only doing this because I couldn’t settle down 
without making things clear. Only my words were impressive. 

But I was worried about Naoko. 

If Kirima Nagi had gotten her mixed up in something, and if it 
had gone bad, I had to try and stop it...sounding very much like 
the ardent discipline committee president, aren’t I? I never 
meant to turn into something like that. 

“C-come on,” I said, agitated, and set off, the two boys 
following me. 


Boogiepop and Others I 183 


Unfortunately, being at the head of the party didn’t do 
■mything for my image. It made me look even more stuck up. 
I king. 




2 . 


w 

T T ill Kirima Nagi-san, second year, class D, please 
report to the broadcast office? If you’re still in the building, wc 
would like to talk to you regarding Kamikishiro Naoko-san. 
Repeat, will Kirima Nagi-san, second year, class D ..I 
Tanaka Shiro’s voice echoed through the darkened school 
Of course, it reached the ears of Nakayama Haruo, the one 
teacher still in the school on night watch duty. 

But all he said was, “Umph..He then slumped onto the 
table, knocking over his instant ramen, and started snoring. 

He was the guardian of the master key that the discipline 
committee member had, and he was supposed to take it from 
them and record this in the log, but he was conked out before 
he could perform his duty. I 


“Uhn...nah...” 

But this was not because of any laziness on his part. 

His hands dangled towards the floor, much too limply for 
normal sleep. His face was pressed against the desk, his neck 
bent as far as it would go, and he was virtually guaranteed a stiff 



Boogiepop and Others I 185 


neck in the morning. 

“Uhmph.. .unh, nahhhhhr.. 

His snores were not considered attractive at the best of 
limes, but now they sounded like a stray dog starving to death. 

He was not asleep; he had clearly been knocked 
unconscious. 

Nor was he alone in the room. 

There was a girl standing next to him. 

She glared up at the speakers as the voice flowed out of 
iliem. 

There was a sweet, strange smell in the room. The smell 
had been enough to knock Nakayama Haruo out, but the long, 
Mack haired, beautiful girl did not even raise an eyebrow. 

Of course not. She was the source of the smell. 

Less than ten seconds after the PA announcement began, 
lie was out the door of the night watch room and heading up the 
stairs. 

For many years afterwards, Nakayama Haruo was to suffer 
I mysterious phenomenon similar to LSD flashbacks (though 
lie was quite certain that he had never tried any drugs) in which 
his daily routine was abruptly disrupted by illusions similar to 
intense migraines. 

Certainly, this mysterious “disease” was a curse, but he 
had no idea how insanely lucky he really was. 

The only reason he had survived was by the whim of a killer, 
i he fleeting thought that perhaps she had killed too many people 
already. 














186 I Kouhei Kadono 


“-?!” Kirima Nagi heard the announcement as well, 

and looked up. j 

She was busy prying open the lockers of every student in the 
school and searching the contents. Naturally, she was looking for 
traces of the Manticore. Echoes stood beside her, disguised in a 
school uniform. 1 

“How do they know I’m still at the school? And what’s 
this about Naoko?” 1 

“Broadcast office...” Echoes plucked the words out of the 
broadcast, and spoke them. | 

“Can you sense something, Echoes?!” Kirima Nagi asked 
Kamikishiro Naoko had explained to her that he could sense 
the presence of his clone, the Manticore. ! j 

“.” Echoes put his finger on his forehead and 

tried to sense it, but shook his head, apparently drawing a 
blank. 

“But an obvious summons like that.. .why the hell would it 
need to hide?” Nagi said angrily. 

Echoes simply shook his head. He knew only that the 
Manticore had learned far more about human society than he 
had managed. This was a trap. 

66 5 ? 

He put his hand on Nagi’s shoulder, and pushed her 
backwards. Signaling her not to follow. 

“Why not? It’s a trap?” Nagi said. She knew it too. 

Echoes nodded. 

“That’s why we have to go,” Nagi said quietly. “We don’t 
play into this trap and it’ll change its face and make a run for 

it. It’ll leave the school. We’ll never catch it then.” 

66 ?? 

Echoes watched the fearless girl carefully. In his heart, he 







Boogiepop and Others I 187 


whispered. 

(Which is it...?) 

But the girl who could hear that voice was no more. 

Nagi pulled a pair of leather gloves out of her skirt, put them 
on, and took a stun gun off of the belt that she wore around her 
waist. The belt and gloves failed to match her uniform at all. 

She squeezed the grip once, testing it. 

With a crackle, a two million volt firework flew through 
i he air. 




“She’s not coming,” Tanaka-kun whispered. It had been at 
least five minutes since our broadcast. 

“The teacher isn’t here either. What’s going on?” I asked. I 
was pretty sure Nakayama-sensei was on duty tonight. He was 
;i little neurotic, but he definitely was not the type to let small 
things go, and an unscheduled broadcast was sure to set him 
off. Was he asleep? 

“.” Saotome-kun stood deep in thought, 

frowning. 

“What now?” Tanaka-kun asked, turning to look at us, 
unable to wait. 

“One more time,” Saotome-kun whispered. 

“There’s no way she didn’t hear that. Maybe she has gone 
home.” I spread my hands. 

“Yeah,” grunted Tanaka-kun. 

Saotome-kun said again, more forcefully, “Come on, let’s 
do it again!” 

But when he reached for the switch, all the lights in the room 
suddenly went out. 






188 I Kouhei Kadono 


Wah?!” ] 

There were no windows in the broadcast office. It was 
pitch black. 1 

“A b-blackout?” I said, recovering slightly. 

“Damn, the breakers!” snapped Saotome-kun angrily. I 
wasn’t sure what he meant for a second, but of course, if the 
circuit breakers went, so would the lights. Made perfect sense. 

He was clearly a fast thinker. i 

But why would the breakers trip? Unless it was done 
deliberately, they only tripped when someone was using too 
much electricity... J 

Fumbling around in the darkness, I managed to get the door 
open at last, and moonlight streamed in through the windows in 
the hall. 

There was a black shadow standing right in front of me. ; 
I didn’t even have time to look. The shadow pushed 
something towards me, and a shockwave hit my body. 

“Hhh...” j 

A sound somewhere between a breath and a scream came 
out of my mouth, and I crumpled to the floor. I couldn’t move. 

“President?” Saotome-kun cried from behind me. It 
sounded so far away. The shadow slipped swiftly past me, and 
launched itself at Saotome-kun. 

The impact of him hitting the ground carried through the 
floorboards to me. 

“Wh-who are you?” Tanaka-kun shrieked. 

That was the last thing I heard. My consciousness slipped 
farther and farther away. 







Boogiepop and Others I 189 


When I opened my eyes, I found myself tied up and lying 
on my side on a heavily waxed floor. 

It was dark around me. But moonlight came in from 
•omewhere, so it was brighter than the main building had 
liven. Wherever we were was pretty open. 

There was only one room in the school this large, with big 
windows along one side and wooden floors. It was the lecture 
hall. 

(—Wha-what the... ?) 

I tried to sit up. 

But my body was heavy, leaden. It was clear that I still 
hadn’t fully recovered from the impact. 

Saotome-kun and Tanaka-kun were lying next to me. I 
prodded their backs with my knees. 

“Hey!” 

“Unh,” groaned Saotome-kun, stirring, and opening his 
eyes. “This...” he started to say, but quickly snapped his 
mouth shut. 

“Mm? What?” I asked, looking around. I found what had 
surprised him. Two figures stood in the direction that he was 
looking. 

“Everyone awake?” said one of them. It was Kirima Nagi. 

The other one appeared to be a male student. He was 
wearing a uniform, but I didn’t recognize him. 

“What did you do with Kamikishiro-san?” Tanaka-kun 
asked. It looked like he’d woken up first. 

“You’re Tanaka Shiro, then? Naoko told me about you,” 

Nagi sighed. 

“Kirima-san, what...?” Saotome-kun asked. 

Nagi glared at him coldly. “I told you not to get involved, 
Saotome-kun.” 









190 I Kouhei Kadono 


“But what’s going on?” I 

“You don’t need to know.” ] 

“How can you say that?!” I shouted. I 

Nagi glared at me, surprised. “Committee President, I j 
know why these two are here, but how did you get mixed up 
in this?” I 

“I know Naoko-san too!” I 

“But don’t you think you’re trying a little too hard? Caused 
me no end of confusion.” ] 

“I’m the one who’s confused!” I shouted, completely ] 
forgetting that I was talking to a violence-prone problem child. 
‘Tell me what you think you’re doing, right this instant!” j 

She ignored me, and looked at the boy next to her. | 

“It’s none of them, right. Echoes?” j 

What did she mean? The boy she’d called Echoes nodded. 
What a strange nickname. I 

“None...of them...” j 

“You’d know, right? Even if it were lying low?” 1 

“Kn-know...” 

“None of them have been ‘altered.’ I see.” 1 

Watching the two of them nod at each other pissed me off. 
“Stop whispering cryptically at each other! And you! You 
aren’t even a student here! I’ve never seen you before in my 
life!” ! 

I’m not bragging, but if you’re on gate duty often enough, 
you do end up knowing everyone at school. 

Nagi looked at me. “I apologize. We no longer suspect you. 
Time for you to go on home.” 

This was much too selfish. "When hell freezes over!" I 
snapped. Somehow, I managed to get to my feet, despite the 
ropes binding me. I doubt I could do that twice. It’s a stunt you 


Boogiepop and Others I 191 


t an only pull off when you’re too angry to notice. 

“Mm?” Nagi frowned. 

“I told you to explain yourself! How am I supposed to just 
forget a thing like this?” 

“Well, well, well. I guess we see how you became 
committee president,” Nagi said, glaring at me. She looked 
like a yakuza. “But you need to keep quiet about this.” 

“Why should I?” I glared back at her. 

“For your own good,” she said coldly. 

“Raaarh!” I snarled, contorting my body in anger. Since 
my hands and feet were tied, this made me lose my balance, 
;md I fell over again. 

(Oops...!) 

I was just about to fall flat on my face when I felt some¬ 
body catch me. 

It was the boy who’d been standing next to Nagi, 
"Echoes.” 

I looked up at him. He nodded, and undid my bonds. 

From this close, he had a rather gentle face. 

“Th-thanks...” I said, rubbing the rope bums. 

He proceeded to undo Tanaka-kun and Saotome-kun as 
well. We were tied pretty tightly, but he pulled the ropes off 
I i ke he was playing cat’s cradle. He looked frail, but he must have 
been pretty strong. 

For some reason, he reminded me of Christopher 
Lambert’s Tarzan. His hair wasn’t as long, but he gave off a 
similar air. Kind of unworldly. 

“Kirima-san, who is this guy?” Saotome-kun asked. Feeling a 
little jealous, I guess. 

“Mm.. .uh.. .well.. .my boyfriend,” Nagi replied, clearly 
lying. 








192 I Kouhei Kadono 


“You can’t fool me that easily. What are you doing here? 
Where’s Naoko-san?” I glared at Nagi again. 

“R-right! What did you do to Kamikishiro-san?!” Tanaka 
kun yelled, turning on Nagi the moment he was free. 

“I’m worried about Naoko myself,” Nagi said painfully, not 
meeting his gaze. She clearly knew something. I 

“Tell us. We can help.” 1 

“No, you can’t,” Nagi snapped. \ 

“Why not?!” 1 

“This is not a normal situation. Unless you’re screwed up 
like me, you can’t possibly tackle it.” j 

She didn’t hesitate at all to call herself screwed up. 

I shrank back a little at the strength of her words. ] 

Saotome-kun spoke up, “Normal still not good enough, 
hunh?” It was clear that he was quite bitter about something. 

He smiled a little. I looked at his face, and for some reason, 
felt the hairs on my neck stand up. ] 

It was just an ordinary, affable smile, but there was 
something unnaturally relaxed about it, like when you’re playing a 
video game for the thousandth time, and a pattern you’re 
particularly good at shows up. His smile was calm and ruthless. 

“Mm...” Nagi frowned. She must have said the same thing 
when she rejected him. 

“Is Kamikishiro-san okay?!” Tanaka-kun insisted. 

Nagi said bluntly, bitterly, “Shiro-kun, right? You should 
forget about her.” 

“What do you mean?!” 

a ?? 


Nagi said nothing else. 



3 . 


and this Echoes guy led us out of the lecture hall. 

“Go straight home,” Nagi insisted. 

“I have to give the key back,” I said sullenly. I wasn’t 
finished sulking about not getting an explanation. Maybe 111 

report you.” 

“Whatever,” Nagi said airily. 

“What’s wrong with you?” I retorted. “What makes you 
think you have to be personally responsible for everything? 

Can’t you just let things be?!” 

“Now, now, Committee President,” Saotome-kun said, 

patting me on the shoulders. 

“But—!” I insisted. 

But Saotome-kun was completely calm, the exact opposite 
of my state of mind. He spoke to me like he was soothing a 
fretful baby. “There’s nothing you can do. Kirima-san has 
things she needs to do.” It was like he knew what those things 

were. 

u 









194 I Kouliei Kadono 


He was definitely too relaxed. 

When I held my tongue, he turned back towards Nagi. ■ 
At his steady gaze, Nagi awkwardly looked away. fl 

He spoke to her anyway. “Kirima-san. I do understand.” I 
He took a mechanical pencil out of his pocket, and spun it 
around his fingers, very casually. ill 

“We can never be satisfied with ‘normal.’” fl 

“.?” Nagi stared at Saotome-kun, baffled. “What?” ;■ 

“Looking back, I’m glad you rejected me. If I had been 
with you, then when / met her, I would’ve been her enemy.” fl 
He sighed, almost happily. K 

Nagi frowned. “When you met who? What are you talking 
about?” She seemed confused. It looked like something about 
his turn of phrase that bothered her. I 

A little smile crept up the edges of Saotome-kun’s lips. “In 
other words, I can’t help but put you on the side of ‘normal,’ | 
now.” His shoulders slumped. 

Then he moved like lightening. | 

Before I even realized that he’d turned around, his arm 
was reaching out towards Echoes, who stood behind him. 

The mechanical pencil was in his hand. His aim was true. 1 
The tip of it stabbed deep into Echoes’ throat. ] j 

“_ 9 !” 

• • 

Echoes staggered backwards. Hj 

In an instant, Saotome Masami had buried the pencil all the 
way inside Echoes’ throat. Then he turned his attention back 
towards Nagi. <1 

“Now, you are our enemy.” | ; 

A shadow fell towards us from above. 1 

We all looked up, and saw a person dropping down from the 
school roof. 






Boogiepop and Others I 195 


Someone I knew. 

YuriharaMinako. 

She was looking right at Echoes. 

Falling on him.. .no, attacking him. 

u f ?? 

Blood gushing from his throat, Yurihara Minako cut him 
open from his shoulder to his waist.. .with her mere fingers— 
her nails hideously long. 

She’d fallen more than ten meters, but bounded upwards 
igain like a grasshopper. 

By God, she wasn’t human! 

“Ah...” I could do nothing but stand there with my mouth 
hanging open. 

“M-Manticore!” Nagi shrieked, following the leaping 
monster that looked like Yurihara Minako with her eyes. 

That cost her her life. 

Saotome Masami was standing right in front of her. 

She looked down just in time to see his hand slash 
downwards. 

The knife in his hand flashed. 

“-!” Nagi’s voice never made it to words. It was a tiny 

little survival knife, the size of his palm, like a toy, but the 
blade was sharp, and it sliced her throat open. 

“I just changed teams—from the killed, to the killers .” 

I doubt anyone but Saotome Masami himself could 
understand the meaning behind his words. 

Kirima Nagi spun around, blood spraying from her throat. 
She fell over. 

u _p? 

His throat pierced, his torso cut in two, Echoes was still 
watching Nagi. He clearly wasn’t human either. 












196 I Kouhei Kadono 


He dodged Yurihara Minako as she attacked again, and 
dashed to Nagi’s side. j 

Ignoring Saotome Masami, who backed away, Echoes 
scooped up Nagi’s convulsing body, and leapt away. He 

cleared the roof of the school in a single jump, vanishing into 
the night sky. 

He ran away...? j 

"Chase him! This is your chance!” Saotome Masami shouted, 
and Yurihara Minako reversed her course, leaping back the way 
she had come. 1 

I was dumbfounded. ] 

Beside me, Tanaka-kun wailed, then ran away screaming. 
Saotome Masami swung towards me. I 

I was frozen stiff, and I couldn’t move a muscle. j 

Heh heh heh,” he laughed. His smile was exactly the 

same as it had been a moment before, back when he was on 
our side. 1 

But this boy had just killed another human being... j 
My knees rattled. I was shaking with fear. 

“To be honest, the plan was for Kirima Nagi to kill me 
here, but oh well. This way was pretty fun too,” he said, 
grinning. Like everything was normal. ] 

“I could get addicted to doing things myself,” he 

commented, walking towards me, moonlight glittering off the knife 
in his hand. 




As Echoes fled upwards to the roof, he realized that there 
was little power left in his body. 



Boogiepop and Others I 197 


The pencil from a moment before—instead of lead, it had 
I iron filled with a fatal poison created by the Manticore. He 
was infected. 

a p? 

He quickly pulled the pencil out of his throat. But it was 
loo late. 

His feet and hands felt numb. Injuries that his massive 
m generative powers should have healed instantly showed no signs 
ofimproving. 

But what had happened? 

That boy was the Manticore’s ally? 

He hadn’t been brainwashed. Echoes was sure of that. But 
why would a normal human be working with a monster? 

Echoes glanced down at Nagi. 

She was no longer breathing. Her pupils were dilated, 
nothing reflected in her eyes. Her lips were half open, a stream 
of blood flowing out of them. She wasn’t moving. 

This girl had protected everyone from the shadows, in 
secret, and it had killed her. 

a ?? 

Echoes stared down at her ashen face. 

(Which is it...?) 

He wondered inside. But only Kamikishiro Naoko could 
answer, and sadly, she was gone. 

Yurihara Minako hit the roof behind him, giving chase. 

Echoes gathered Nagi up again, and leapt off of the roof. 

“You can’t get away from me!” The Manticore yelled, 
following him. 

She was smiling. Saotome Masami’s plan was going 
perfectly. 










198 I Kouhei Kadono 


Echoes was running, but he was too badly wounded. He 
could not hope to hide. I 

She was an imperfect copy, and would never have been 
his equal in a fair fight, but now the tables were turned. 

When she next caught sight of Echoes, he was abandon in;', 
Kirima Nagi’s body in the bushes of the school’s garden. 1 
Clearly, he was trying to lighten the load, but it was too late. 

Grinning from ear to ear, the Manticore flung herself at the 
slow-moving Echoes. 1 

Her kick sent Echoes flying. 1 

*** 

There was a low thud from the school garden. 1 

I snapped out of it. I 

Saotome Masami was right in front of me, waving a knife. i 
I narrowly dodged it by rolling on the ground. 

I got my feet up from under me and tried to run, but my right 
foot slipped, and I fell again. 

I looked down. 1 

My hands were resting in a pool of Kirima Nagi’s blood. 
“Aaaaahhhh!” and at last, I was able to scream. I 

Saotome Masami came after me. I 

I tried to spin around. My fingers touched something. 1 
It gleamed. It was the stun gun that Kirima Nagi had 
dropped. 1 

I snatched up the weapon. ! 

“Grr...” Saotome Masami scowled. 

“St-stay back!” I pointed the weapon in his direction, and 
squeezed the switch-like thing on the side. 



Boogiepop and Others I 199 


With a crackle, fireworks spat off of the tip, but they were 
only a few centimeters long. It was but a tiny little light, and it 
didn’t look at all threatening. 

“Hmph,” Saotome Masami smiled, coldly. “What are you 
going to do to me with that! That kind of weapon can’t kill 
anyone.” 

“Wh-what are you people? That—Yurihara Minako 
thing... what is it?!” 

“She is Yurihara Minako, but she is not Yurihara Minako. 
The original is dead. She is the Manticore.” 

“Manticore...?” I could swear I’d heard that name 
somewhere. In a computer game or something. I’m sure it 
meant... 

.. .Man-eater. 

Oh. God. That meant.. .that meant Naoko-san was... 

Saotome Masami saw my expression, and guessed what I 
was thinking. He grinned. “ Exactly. She’s already been 
digested .” 

He said it so normally. Without a shred of guilt. 

“A-and all the other people who vanished?” 

“Mostly. Well, there may be a few girls who just ran away on 
ilieirown.” 

“And Kirima Nagi was looking for you...” 

That’s why she captured us. But she thought we had nothing 
lo do with it, so she released us, without realizing that one of her 
enemies was hiding among us... 

“You used us as cover, didn’t you?” 

“You had your uses. She was a fool. She allied herself 
with Echoes, but it never occurred to her that his enemy might 
have allies as well.” 

His complete composure put a match to the flames of 






200 I Kouhei Kadono 


anger inside me. They soon banished my fear. 1 

“So you lied when you said you loved her?” i 

“No, that was the truth. But I no longer need her. Still, 1 
wasn’t going to let the Manticore have her; no, I wanted to kill 
her with my own hands. Do you know how good that feels?” 
“How the hell would I know thatT 1 

I thrust my weapon towards him. He dodged easily. I 
“Beautiful, President. I love your eyes. I love strong- 
willed, powerful eyes.” 

Grrr. “You little...” I swung my weapon wildly, not 
getting anywhere near him. 

Then something passed over my head. I 

It was “Echoes.” He slammed into the ground. He’d been 
thrown there. j 

He was torn to pieces. ] 

While I was distracted, Saotome Masami kicked my hand. 
“Ah?!” I yelped, but the stun gun was already flung out of 
my reach. ] 

From behind me, Yurihara Minako yelled, “Enough, 
Saotome-kun! I’ll finish things.” 

“Okay,” Saotome Masami replied, picking up the stun gun 
and stepping away. I ran over to Echoes. i 

He was a wreck. His right arm was half tom off his 
shoulder, and there were holes all over his body. He was 
covered in blood. 

“E-Echoes?” I said, pulling him upright. 

He opened his eyes feebly. 

A pained moan escaped his purple lips. 

“President, it’s no use asking him to save you. He’s almosi 
dead,” Yurihara Minako—the Manticore—said, laughing. 
“That wasn’t so hard. You might even have been able to 





Boogiepop and Others I 201 


win without any tricks,” Saotome Masami said, evidently 
rn joying himself. 

“I never thought he would be this weak,” the Manticore 
u plied, amused. “I’m sure he used to be stronger.” 

I glared at her. 

“You aren ’ t human! You ’ re both devils! ” 

As he lay dying, Echoes heard the girl holding him shout, 
“You aren’t human!” 

Not human. She meant they weren’t fit to be called human. 

He still didn’t understand. 

Which were humans? 

Humans had captured him for being different, and 
lorcefully and quite mercilessly studied his body. Humans had 
made the Manticore. But the people who had saved him, the 
cloaked boy in the black hat, Kamikishiro Naoko, and Kirima 
Nagi, were all human too. 

Which is it? 

Which is the truth? 

“Ha ha ha! You are stupid, aren’t you?!” The Manticore 
laughed, mocking the girl. “I never was human! And 
Saotome-kun is nothing like you foolish humans. Devils? Fine 
with me! I think I like being called a devil!” 

“You will be destroyed!” The girl shouted back, not at all 
cowed. “I will die here, and so will this man, but there will be 
other people who will stand in your way! No matter where 
you hide, there will be people who can’t ignore the distortions 
m the world that you’re trying to create! And you will be found 
again, just like Kirima Nagi found you!” Big tears were 



















202 I Kouhei Kadono 


running down her cheeks. 

She was sad. 

Because she was about to die? 

Then why was she holding him so tightly? 

It was as if she was protecting him from the Manticore. 

Like Kamikishiro Naoko had, when she found him 
wounded in town. 

(Humans...) 

He had no more time. 

He had to make a choice. 


“Like Kirima Nagi?” the Manticore chuckled. “I think I’ll 
be her next.” 

“.?” I didn’t know what she meant. I had to ask. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Just that I’ll change from Yurihara Minako into Kirima 
Nagi.” 

At first, I couldn’t comprehend this. My mind went blank. 
Then I was horrified. “W-what?!” 

“She’s an ideal specimen. She’s crazy, so nobody will say 
anything if I behave a little oddly; she’s rich, and has a vast 
information network set up. It’s perfect. There will be a 
commotion when Yurihara Minako vanishes, which I would 
prefer to avoid, but the benefits far outweigh that” 

“. 1 shuddered, turning to look at Saotome Masami. 

He had said that he no longer needed her. Because he had a 
new girlfriend now. 

Saotome Masami stared back at me, expressionless. 

I had no words. 




Boogiepop and Others I 203 


l 

I “As for you, Niitoki Kei,” the Manticore continued. “The 
world will never know you’ve died. We will alter you, and 
make a slave of you. You’ll be moving around, but you will 
have no heart. Even if you meet a boy you liked, you will feel 
nothing.” 

I 1 was horrified again. 

I I could see it. 

The Manticore disguised as Nagi, and me standing beside 
her as her slave.. .1 could see myself on gate duty, Nagi beside 
me, and I’m pointing her to her next meal.. .even if the boy I 
had once loved and his pretty girlfriend came, I would think 
nothing, simply greet them mechanically... 

And that’s not all. The Manticore’s terrifying words gave 
me a glimpse of a higher purpose. 

I She and Saotome Masami weren’t killing for their own 

I self-preservation. This was just one part of their plan to take 
I control of the world from us humans. 

But if they graduated, and went out of school, what would 
happen to the world? 

She came closer to me. 

I hugged Echoes’ body tightly. 

Then... 

j Echoes slowly raised his wounded arm. 

It was shaking. His fist wasn’t clenched or open, his 
I fi ngers j ust hung there limply. 

He pointed his hand at the Manticore. 

“What? What’s that mean? You still think you can do 
something to stop me?” The Manticore smirked. 

“.” But Echoes wasn’t looking at her. 

He was looking at the stars in the sky behind her. 







204 I Kouhei Kadono 


And he suddenly spoke, using actual words, not to 
anybody, but to the sky above. 

“My body into information, transmit to source! 
And the air around me was filled with white light. 









T 

A hat evening, a strange electrical disturbance was 
recorded in the area. Satellite broadcast monitors all went 
white, computer hard drives were cleared of all data, and a 
multitude of other similar unnatural phenomenon were 
encountered. The television stations and newspaper offices 
were deluged with questions and complaints. There were 
several investigations launched, with no real satisfactory 
results. But a number of witnesses said, “About that time, I 
could swear I saw the sky glow. It was just for a second, but it 
was like a bright light was launched from the ground into the 
sky.” But these reports were never connected to anything, and 
were eventually buried and forgotten. 


.. .1 know what I saw. 

Echoes changed into light, and that light swallowed the 
Manticore. 




































208 I Kouliei Kadono 


And a second before it did, Saotome Masami leapt in from 
of the Manticore, shielding her with his body— 

I don’t know what he was thinking, why he was on the side 
of the Manticore, and frankly, I don’t want to know. 

But there was one thing that I did have to admit.. .he miglii 
have killed a number of people for the Manticore, but that 
casual disregard for life sure included his own. j 

Saotome Masami was swept up in the torrent of light, his 
body blown away, not a trace of it left. | 

He was disintegrated... no, he was erased. ] 

But moments before Echoes had self-destructed, the I 
Manticore had been flung aside by her companion and out of 
the beam’s path. 1 

66 195 

Even as I was flung aside by the shockwave, I desperately 
struggled to grasp the situation. I 

But no, I didn’t understand anything. 1 

From my point of view, there was absolutely no way for 
me to grasp the first thing about what had just happened. fl 

What the hell was Echoes? How could something that 
looked like a human turn into light and explode?! And what 
‘information’ was he ‘transmitting’? To who? I simply had no 
way of knowing. 1 

(What ’ s happening—?!) | 

I hit the ground and rolled, screaming with frustration . 

inside. 9 

When I finally managed to stop myself, there was no lighi 
left around me. 1 

Grunting in pain, I sat up, looked in front of me, and 
gasped. 1 

She was standing there alone. j 






Boogiepop and Others I 209 


Half of her body was burned black, and smoke was rising 
< il l of it. The uniform she’d been wearing had been blown 
,i way, and beneath the moonlight, every inch of her slim, 
limber body was exposed. 

u 99 

She was gazing blankly at the sky. 

She didn’t seem to be looking at anything. 

u 99 

Her lips trembled. Like they were scrambling to form 
words that never emerged. 

“Ah...ahh...” 

There was no expression on her face. It had been replaced 
by emptiness. 

The face of someone that had lost something that they valued 
more than their own life. 

As if half of her body had been tom away. 

As if her capacity for joy had been pulled up by the roots. 

She looked as if she could no longer perceive any 
meaning, like there was nothing left for her. 

“Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh!!” 

Somewhere, her endless scream turned into a howl. 

It was the sound of her heart breaking. 

The scream seemed to shake the moon. 

(,(. 99 

I sat and watched, nailed to the spot. 

But then I realized that was the last thing I should be 
doing. 

(G-gottorun...!) 

As I tried to get to my feet, the gravel scrunched beneath 
me. 

Like a mechanical response, the Manticore’s battered face 















210 1 Kouhei Kadono 


swung towards me. 

Our eyes met. I 

A shiver ran down my spine. i 

Even by the light of the moon, I could tell her eyes were 
blood red. The whites were completely soaked in crimson 
hostility. | 

“You die...!” she howled. “I’ll kill every last one of 
you!!” 

As if her voice had been a trigger, I shot to my feet, and 
ran for it. 

Naturally, she came after me. 

I was running, but from the sound of it, she was walking, 
dragging one leg. 

But the sound was getting closer. 

(Waaaah!) 

At the time, I was convinced that fear had finally driven me 
round the bend. 

I was hearing things. 

I could hear a melody coming through the bushes in from 
of me—an impossible, unnatural melody. 

Someone was whistling. 

Whistling a tune that should never be whistled, Wagner’s 
“Die Meistersinger von Numberg.” 

Unnatural or not, at that moment I had no other straws to 
grasp at. 

I ran for my life towards the sound. 

When I was almost there, my leg slipped. 

“Aah—!” I screamed, pitching forward, falling flat on my 
face. I smacked my forehead on the ground, and everything 
went black for a moment. 

The whistling stopped. 











Boogiepop and Others 1211 


I could hear the sound of the Manticore’s footsteps, several 
1 11 lies louder than it had been a moment before. 

64 p’ 

I spun around, and the Manticore’s hand was already 
i caching towards me. 

This is it. I’m going to die...! 

Just as that thought crossed my mind... 

Fwsh! 

It was the sound of something cutting through the air. 

And then.. .the Manticore’s hand flew off, with a 
I’.rotesque slicing sound... 

It had been severed from her body and was now spinning 
ihrough the air! 

(Wha...?) 

I saw something flash. 

Like string. 

It twisted like it was alive, and wrapped around the 
Manticore’s neck. 

It tightened. 

“_9!” 

• • 

The Manticore’s expression changed. She snatched at her 
throat with both hands. But she only had one, and the fingers 
of it tried to get a grip on the string wrapped around her throat. 

It wasn’t a string. It was a horrifically thin metal wire. 

‘Ah,’ I thought. I had my answer. The reason I had 
suddenly tripped and fallen was because this wire had been 
strung across my path. 

One end of the wire appeared to be tied around a tree. 

The other end led into the shadow of the school building. 









212 1 Kouhei Kadono 


When I looked in that direction, I felt my brains pour out of 

my ears. ■ 

“It can’t be—?!” I shouted. 

There was a figure there, leaning backwards, pulling on 
the wire with black gloves. It wore a cape and a black hat shaped 
like a pipe. It was the very creature that all the girls in my class 

had been gossiping about. J 

“.. .The wrist was charred enough for me to cut through, bill 

the neck seems to be stronger,” it said. 

The androgynous voice, neither male nor female, was 

exactly as the rumors said. j 

But the face...was... I 

“M-M-Miyashita-san?!” ,1 

Yes, it was clearly that of my classmate, Miyashita Touk;i 
“Currently, I am Boogiepop,” she.. .no, he said clearly, in 
a boy’s voice. 

“Gh...?!” gurgled the Manticore, eyes widening in 

surprise. ■ 

She was no more able to take this in than I was. 9 

The wire was sunk deep into the skin of her throat. She 
was struggling to loosen it with her fingers, but it was cutting 
the fingers instead, and they were bleeding. I 

“Ghh...ghhhh...! 1 

“You call yourself the Manticore?” Boogiepop said 
quietly. “You are much stronger than a human, but I can make 
free use of the strength that humans unconsciously keep in reser w 
to avoid exceeding the limits of their flesh. Since I am only 

borrowing this body." l 

Then he suddenly shouted, “Now, Shiro-kun! Shoot it!” j 
I had no time to ponder what he meant. No sooner had Ilu- 
words left his mouth than an arrow pierced the Manticore’s 




Boogiepop and Others I 213 


diest. 

I knew that arrow. 

It was a duralumin arrow, that kind that the archery team 
used. 

I spun around, and behind me was Tanaka-kun, who had not 
run away after all, but holding a sturdy glass fiber bow, aimed at 
11 ic—no, at the Manticore. 

Her head was trapped. She couldn’t dodge. 

“Agh...” 

I wonder what the Manticore thought at that moment, when 
.lie knew that she had lost. 

She didn’t look at the arrow in her chest, or at Boogiepop, 
or at the archer. 

I saw an expression steal over that empty face. To me, it 
looked like... relief. 

“Shoot her head!” Boogiepop said, showing no mercy. 

He killed her when she was at her most beautiful, before 
.lie had a chance to grow ugly; killed her without pain.. .just 
is the stories said. 

Tanaka-kun let go. 

The arrow was flung off the bowstring, and hit Yurihara 
Minako’s face dead center, smashing her head. 

For an instant, what looked like cracks ran all down her 
body, and then she crumbled, changing into a purple smoke. 

The smoke drifted in all directions, carried away on the 
wind. 

A little of it drifted past my nose. It smelt of horribly thick, 
Iresh blood. 







214 I Kouhei Kadono 


I couldn’t stand up. j 

Tanaka-kun came running over. ) 

“A-are you okay?” J 

“Um.. .y-yeah...” I shook my head, trying to recover 
some clarity. ! 

But Miyashita-san walked in front of me again in that 
Boogiepop costume, and my thoughts scattered again. 

“Wh-what is that?!” I asked Tanaka-kun, clinging to him 
like a toddler. 1 

He shook his head. “I don’t know. He stopped me on my 
way back from practice, offered to help.. .you know him?” 

“I... kind of know... of him...” | 

Boogiepop undid the wire from around the tree, and 
headed to the bushes where Kirima Nagi lay. 

“The Manticore said Echoes was surprisingly weak. I 
wonder why...” he muttered. He (or was it a she after all?) 
kicked Kirima Nagi. 1 

Nagi had been killed, her throat sliced open.. .but her body 
shook, and she sat up. I 

She ’d come back to life. 1 

“He gave you part of his life. You’ve escaped death 
again.” 

Tanaka-kun and I could do nothing but gape. 

Nagi moaned and clutched her forehead. She’d lost a lot 
of blood, and must be anemic. 1 

“Hello, Fire Witch,” Boogiepop said. 

“You again,” Nagi replied, not at all surprised. She sighed 
“If you were out, why didn’t you come sooner?” t 

“Your actions finally allowed me to uncover the nature ol 
the danger.” 



Boogiepop and Others I 215 


“I gotta be me all the damn time, but you only bother 
coming out when the shit hits the fan. You selfish bastard.” 

“Don’t say that,” he replied. It sounded like they’d known 
each other for years. 

“Is... is it over?” 

“Yes. Thanks to Echoes’ sacrifice and the committee 
president’s courage.” 

“I see...” Nagi tried to stand, but wavered and fell over 
again. 

Boogiepop made no effort to help her, instead coming 
hack in our direction. 

“I leave her in your hands. I’ll take care of the clean up,” 
he told us. 

“.” We made no response. 

Boogiepop picked up the Manticore’s hand from the 
ground. He looked up at me, and made a strange expression, 
narrowing one eye, like he was smiling, but not quite. It was 
like he was playing dumb. 

“Niitoki Kei—you certainly do have a strong will. It’s 
because of people like you that the world manages to remain a 
halfway decent place. In the world’s stead, I thank you.” 

It was like a speech from a play. I had no idea what it 
meant. 

Leaving me standing there stunned, he fled like the wind, 
lurning the corner behind the gym and vanishing from sight. 

And that was how it ended. 










5 . 


But how did Boogiepop become a rumor? He’s 
supposed to be a mysterious figure, his identity a secret. Who 
started all the legends about him?” I asked Kirima Nagi the 
next day after class. 

“Probably Miyashita Touka herself,” Nagi answered. We 
were alone in the room. Everyone else had already left. 

“Eh? What do you mean?” 

“Miyashita Touka is unaware that she has an alter-ego 
known as Boogiepop inside of her. But she knows it 
unconsciously. You know, like how you talk about yourself, 
but say it’s a friend of yours? Same principle, she just told 
other people about her other self.” 

“That’s it?” 

“You should probably ask Suema about it. Well, not 
specifically, but she can explain it way better than I can.” 

“Hmm.. .1 don’t really get it.” 

“I don’t know much about that bastard myself,” she 
sighed. “Did everyone make a fuss when Yurihara Minako 














Boogiepop and Others I 217 


iluln’tshow?” 

“The teacher asked if any of us knew anything, but nobody 
answered. It’s too soon for anyone to realize she’s actually 
missing, so not much is going on yet. But for a straight A 
indent like her, skipping’s enough to get the gossip going.” 
“Hunh...” 

I’d called Yurihara-san’s house the day before, but the 
answering machine lead me to believe that both her parents were 
ni ton business trips. Nobody knew she hadn t come home. It 
looked as though the Manticore had deliberately chosen to make 

her move while they were out of town. 

But all hell would break loose in a day or two. Yurihara 
Minako would cause a lot more problems for the school than 

uny of the other girls had. 

Saotome Masami would be buried under her shadow. His 
11 ;irents probably already knew he hadn t come home, but he 
was a boy, so they were unlikely to worry all that much if he 

was out all night. 

“When was the real Yurihara.. .when was she replaced?” 
“Not sure. But a pretty long time ago. She always had been 
missing. It was just that up until now, we simply hadn’t noticed 

she was gone.” 

“I guess that’s true...” 

We both hung our heads. 

It was a strange feeling. 

We couldn’t tell anyone the truth. If we did, it would just make 
ihings worse for all of us. And even then, if word about Echoes got 
out to the institution that made the Manticore, it would just be 
asking for trouble. 

“So, all it ultimately amounts to is nothing?” 

“It’s better that way.” 







218 I Kouliei Kadono 


We stood up. 

Most of the other students had gone home, and the sports 
teams and clubs were all in full session. There was nobody 
roaming the halls or stopped at the shoe lockers. 

We headed for the gates, and the girl on gate duty was 
very happy to see me. 

“Ah! President! Thank god you’re here! Could you take ova 
for me for a minute? I really gotta pee!” ! 

I smiled and nodded, and she bolted off into the school. 

“Everyone likes you,” Nagi grinned. i 

“Or likes using me,” I grimaced. I remembered all the times 
that Kamikishiro Naoko had talked me into fudging the numbers 
to make her on time. Which is how we got to be friends in the first 
place. 

“Naoko-san is really...?” I said softly, suddenly horribly 
sad. 

“Yeah.. .1 think so,” Nagi whispered sorrowfully. 

When Tanaka-kun had left us the day before, he’d said, “I 
don’t know how to say this, but I feel like I should thank you 
all for Kamikishiro-san. Thank you.” 

He was almost crying. 

“Tanaka-kun, what did you really think of Naoko-san?” 

I’d asked. 

He looked at me sadly. “Truthfully, if we had found her, 1 
would’ve told her that I wanted to break up. But now.. .I’m 
not so sure.” 

“Htnram...” was all I said. j 

I couldn’t figure out what I should say to her other lover, 
Kimura Akio. We would probably never speak to each other. 

If someday someone were to tell him, that would be— 


Boogiepop and Others I 219 

But we all had to return to our daily routine, just exactly as 
things had been before. 

“Naoko said something strange once,” Nagi said, looking 
up at the sky. 

“She said Echoes was an angel. That the lord of the 
heavens had ordered him to investigate, and make the final 
decision on whether mankind should be allowed to live, or if it 
should be destroyed. He came here to find out if humans were 
a benevolent existence, or a malevolent one. If we were the 
latter, he would end our history.” 

I was taken aback. “An angel?” 

“I mean, I’m pretty sure she was reading a lot into this. She 
had a tendency to blow everything out of proportion. My 
guess is Echoes and Manticore were both failed experiments in 
biotechnology. But if she was right...” 

a 

“We’re still here. Looks like we’re off the hook this time,” 
she smiled sadly. 

She had to say that. She couldn’t let her friend’s death be 
in vain. 

But I couldn’t smile. 

Nagi hadn’t seen the end of Echoes. 

But I had. Clearly. 

That light had made it as if Saotome Masami had never 
existed in the first place. It had turned the nearly immortal 
Manticore into a burnt crisp. 

That was no biotechnological experiment. 

It had beamed itself into space, but if something like that were 
fired at the earth over and over again... 

“Then the one who really saved the world...” 

“Wasn’t me, wasn’t Boogiepop.. .ultimately, it was that 








220 I Kouliei Kadono 


lonely little love-struck girl who was nice to Echoes. And we 
can’t even thank her for it now,” Nagi sounded almost 

irritated. 

66 ?? 

I had no answer for her. I just stared silently at the sky. 

It seemed so far away. 

As Nagi and I stood there staring absently into the clear 
blue sky, a boy and a girl came walking together towards us. 
When I saw them, I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming, 
“Ah!” 

One of them was Miyashita Touka. The other one was a third 
year student with a promising career in design that I had fallen for 
and had my heart broken by, Takeda Keiji-sempai. 

He looked a little nervous when he saw me, so I spoke to 
him first, to show him that he needn’t worry about it. “Oh, 
sempai ,” I said as cheerfully as I could manage. 

“Hey,” he said vaguely. 

Suddenly, Nagi was standing in front of Miyashita-san. 
“Hmm. So you’re Miyashita Touka,” she said. It seemed that this 
was her first time meeting this side of her. 

“Y-yes...” Miyashita-san said, nodding, in a cute little 
voice as far removed from Boogiepop’s boyish tones as 
possible. 

“I’m Kirima. Nice to meet you,” Nagi said, and held out 
her hand. 

To an outsider, it must have looked like the school 
delinquent was out to get her. 

“Hey!” Takeda-sempai said, stepping up to protect her. 




Boogiepop and Others I 221 


But Miyashita-san shook her head. “You too,” she said, 
shaking Nagi’s hand. Perhaps she understood this 
unconsciously as well. 

“See ya,” Nagi said, giving her a wry grin. 

The two of them went through the gates, and I let out a big 
sigh, and stared up at the sky again. 

I wasn’t able to look Miyashita-san in the eye. I tried to 
smile at her, but I just couldn’t. 

There are too many things that just aren’t clear. 

It should be simple to smile at someone, but sometimes 
that’s a terribly difficult and painful thing to do. 

“It’s so hard to smile...” 

“Hm? What do you mean?” 

I shook my head. “Never mind. It was nothing.” 

Nagi looked at me dubiously, but eventually, she looked back 
up at the sky, and began to whistle. 

It was a song I knew. I sang along, softly. 

“Life is brief, young maiden, fall in love; 
before the crimson bloom fades from your lips, 
before the tides of passion cool within your hips, 
for those of you who know no tomorrow. ” 

The autumn sky was so bright that it made my eyes water. 

‘It’ll be winter soon,’ I thought. 


“Boogiepop and Others” closed. 




Afterword: 

The School in Boogiepop 


These days, I rarely have them, but back in my early 
twenties, I often had dreams about high school. Dreams in 
which I was going to high school, not dreams about having 
gone. I’m talking about in the present tense, as a twenty 
something adult, putting on a uniform (the old kind with the 
clasp) and going to school. In the dreams, I knew clearly that I 
had graduated several years before, but I was pretending not to 
know and going anyway. Since it was a dream, this pretense 
was enough to fool my classmates. Not one of them ever 
noticed that I had no business being at school. Neither did the 
teachers. I sat in the comer of my class, in the dreams, thinking 
about how much I really shouldn’t be there. 

The school in the dreams was not the Kanagawa 
Prefectural Noba High School that I had actually gone to. 
Rather, it was a school I had never seen. (For starters, Noba 
uniforms didn’t have a clasp; they were blazers.) Nevertheless, 
1 knew all kinds of things about that school. To make a long 






























224 I Kouhei Kadono 


story short, the setting for Boogiepop and Others, Shinyo 
Academy, is that school from my dreams, the only part of this 
novel that is fantasy. The rest is something different. 

I think I failed miserably at being a teenage boy. I never 
once thought I was young, or had a future. (I often do now.) I 
never actively participated in class or anything else. I just sat 
there, wondering what I was doing there, and after I graduated, I 
wondered why I had spent so much time thinking about those 
sorts of things. I don’t particularly understand myself. 

So, even now, I don’t really get the idea of going to 
school. I was twenty-eight when I wrote this novel, and over 
ten years have passed since I graduated. Even if I try to find 
the answer, I no longer have a school to go to, so the whole 
thing is permanently out of reach. It’s all too late now. It’s one 
of many, but this “what did I do in school?” question is a 
pretty big trauma for me. It’s like my first love that I never 
asked out. Augh! I was a dirty little angst-ridden idiot without 
a single thought for love. I imagine the reason behind the 
dreams is my conviction that I would be much better at being; 
high school student now. 

Ultimately, school is a place where you have to be with 
others. That’s all. It ends without you ever really under¬ 
standing much about each other, but even so, you bump into a 
lot of people and a lot of thoughts, and you still come back for 
more. Sadly, schools are not exactly set up to preserve that 
diversity. (Right, my readers in school?) I can’t help but think 
that’s a crying shame, but the entire world seems to work that 



Boogiepop and Others I 225 


way, and school isn’t that unique of a place in the world. 

I That’s why, in my dreams. I’m always thinking, “God, I really 
hated that guy, but now I wish I’d known him a little better.” 
And I do all this while sitting there in the comer of the room. 

■ 

(This is less of an afterword than a confession, isn’t it?) 
(Ah, whatever.) 


BGM “HEARTBREAKER” (live ver.) by Grand Funk Railroad. 







ROLL CALL 

at Shinyo Academy 


CLASS ROSTER 

Who’stko 


First Year, Class D 

Kusatsu Akiko (F) 
Noguchi Sachiko (F) 
Saotome Masami (M) 
lariaka Shiro (M) 


First Year, Class F 


Sakamoto Jun (M) 


Second Year, Class B 
Kimura Akio (M) 


Second Year, Class C 


Miyashita Touka / Boogiepop (F) 


Second year, Class D 


Kirima Nagi (F) 
Kinoshita Kyoko (F) 

Saito Rie (F) 

Suema Kazuko (F) 
Watanabe Misaki (F) 
Yurihara Minako/Manticore (F) 


Second Year, Class F 


Niitoki Kei (F) 
Suzumiya Takako (F) 


Third Year, Class F 


Kamikishiro Naoko (F) 
Sasaki (F) 
Takeda Keiji (M) 


Teacher 


Nakayama Haruo (M) 


(F) = female 


(M) = male 


(0) = other 
















COUPLES 

Who's Shacking Up With Whom 


Kimura Akio (M) 
Kamikishiro Naoko (F) 
Tanaka Shiro (M) 

Takeda Keiji (M) 
Miyashita Touka (F) 


Saotorae Masami (M) 
Yurihara Minako (F) / Manticore (0) 

Noguchi Sachiko (F) 
Sakamoto Jun (M) 


DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE 

The Teachers' Pets 


Niitoki Kei (F) 
Saotome Masami (M) 
Tanaka Shiro (M) 
Takeda Keiji (M) 


THE "IN" CROWD 

Movers and Shakers in the Boogiepop Urn verse 


Jii : 

... 


: : : 
v«:S, 


• .... 


Miyashita Touka (F) / Boogiepop (0) 
Yurihara Minako (F) / Manticore (0) 
Echoes (M) 

Kirima Nagi (F) 

Saotome Masami (M) 
























TRANSLATION NOTES 


Translating a foreign language work is a challenging task 
that can result in a lot of sleepless nights and headaches for the 
production team involved. The general rule of thumb for any 
English-language release is to make sure that it retains the 
intricacies of the source material, while not reading like a 
literal translation. It’s a difficult line to walk, but we at Seven 
Seas believe that preserving cultural nuance is of utmost 
importance. 

For this reason, we’ve strived to present a translation 
that is as close to the original as possible, while keeping the 
flow of the novel intact. The following pages of translation 
notes are presented here as a way to offer some additional 
insight into many of the terms, characters and other cultural 
items that you may not have understood while reading the 
novel. These notes also offer a further look into some of the 
choices that the editorial staff at Seven Seas had to make while 
bringing the work to you. Enjoy! 


230 1 Kouhei Kadono 


COVER 


Dual Titles - Though this novel is entitled Boogiepop and 
Others , the Boogiepop series is one that is known for carrying 
multiple titles on many of its covers, and this book is no 
exception. If you look back at the cover, you’ll notice that the 
title is presented in both English and Japanese. The Japanese 
title for this novel is a mixture of the Japanese phonetic 
alphabets, Hirigana and Katakana, as well as a solitary Kanji 
character, and the title is commonly romanized as “Boogiepop wa 
Warawanai.” However, this Japanese title doesn’t translate as 
“Boogiepop and Others.” The title literally translates to either 
“Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh” or “Boogiepop Doesn’t Smile.” In 
essence, this means that the full title for this first novel could be 
thought of as “Boogiepop wa Warawanai: Boogiepop and 
Others” or “Boogiepop Doesn’t Laugh: Boogiepop and 
Others”—where the second portion of the title is meant as a 
subtitle to the work. 

Seven Seas has chosen to use the English subtitle of 
Boogiepop and Others as the primary title for this novel to 
keep it consistent with The Right Stuf International’s dvd 
release of the live action movie, which is itself based upon this 
novel. Furthermore, we are using Boogiepop Doesn ’t Laugh as 
the title for the two-volume manga adaptation of this novel—an 
adaptation written by Kouhei Kadono and illustrated by Kouji 
Ogata that sheds additional light on events presented in this novel 
and reveals new events and scenes. We have chosen to split the 
titles to avoid confusion between the two releases. 




Boogiepop and Others I 231 


INTRODUCTION 

Shoji - In Japanese homes, sliding doors that consist of 
translucent white rice paper stretched over a wooden frame. 
(pg-19) 

Tatami - Traditional straw matting that is commonly used to 
cover floors, (pg. 19) 

Three Year Term - As many anime and manga fans are well 
aware, Japanese high schools tend to focus on three-year terms 
known as first year, second year and third year, whereas most 
North American high schools tend to have four-year terms, 
consisting of ninth through twelfth grades. For clarity’s sake, 
this novel has mostly used first, second and third years, but we 
have employed the term “senior” in a few spots, referring to a 
third year student, where it felt more natural from a storytelling 
standpoint. 

Student Discipline Committee - Kei is the president of the 
discipline committee, and other characters tend to address her as 
“President.” This particular type of committee seems to be a 
common feature in Japanese high schools, but no one seems to 
be sure why, since they don’t actually do anything. For this 
reason, this committee should not be confused with the student 
council, nor should Kei’s position be confused with class 
president. 



232 1 Kouhei Kadono 


CHAPTER 1-1 


Touka’s Name - We have decided not to use the Boogiepop 
movie and art book’s method of romanizing “Miyashita 
Toka,” as the word “taka” is a Japanese preposition, and it 
seems awkward as a name. We’ve elected to spell her name so 
that it’s similar to the original Japanese pronunciation by 
retaining the ‘tou’ sound (pronounced to.) 

A Male in a Female’s Body - The character of Boogiepop is 
usually referred to by using male pronouns, but occasionally 
other characters will claim they aren’t really certain if it is a 
male or female—just that he/she has the same pretty face as 
Miyashita Touka’s. This kind of gender confusion has been a 
common convention in Japanese literature throughout history. 

Sempai and Kouhai - Seven Seas requested that Andrew, the 
translator, made sure to preserve the terms sempai and kouhai 
as much as possible. There are a few exceptions, though. 
When sempai is used in place of “you,” we did remove it, as the 
resulting line would seem too unnatural. 

Double Dating - It’s pretty unusual for a school to ban dating 
these days, but Shinyo Academy is unusually strict. The term that 
Keiji uses in Japanese is “group kousai. ,, (pg.26) 

Ghost Stories - Once Boogiepop appears in front of the 
crowd, Keiji compares Boogiepop’s face to that of a 
nopperabou —a faceless ghost. This term actually comes from 
a ghost story that goes something like this: you meet a ghost 
with no face (a nopperabou), and it frightens you so much that 




Boogiepop and Others I 233 


you ran down the hill and into the first soba shop you see. As 
you slurp your noodles, you tell the shop owner about your 
experience, and he asks, “Did it look...like this ?” and 
suddenly, he, too, has no face, (pg.29) 

CHAPTER 1-2 

Campus Advanced Information Administration System - 

Originally “Koudo Jouhou Kanri Gakuen System.” (pg.32) 

Naoko’s Song - A very traditional Japanese song that is 
famous for being in Akira Kurosawa’s film Ikiru. Rather than 
use the translation that appears on the Criterion Collection DVD, 
we’ve elected to further refine it into verse with a slight rhyme. 
The original appears as follows: 

“Inochi mijikashi Koi se yo otome 
Akaki kuchibiru Asenu ma ni 
Atsuki chishio no Hienu ma ni 
Asu no tsukihi wa Nai mono wo ” 


(pg.36) 

CHAPTER 1-3 


The Writings of Kirima Seiichi - Seiichi ’ s quotes are always 
a bit of a nightmare to translate, as they have to strike a 
balance between seeming cryptic but being vaguely 
understandable. Our translation is the result of studying the 
Japanese closely and puzzling out the meaning of the passages 
before ever translating a word, (pg.48) 






234 I Kouhei Kadono 


CHAPTER 1-4 

Did He or Didn’t He? - Boogiepop says that he never 
appeared before the psychologist, but this is later contradicted 
in book six. (pg.54) 


CHAPTER 2-1 


The Village of Eight Graves - The first mystery novel 
starring famous fictional detective Kindaiichi Kousuke 
(referred to by some as the “Japanese Columbo”). Yokomizu 
Seishi’s The Village of Eight Graves (or Yatsuhaka Mura ) is a 
very fun book that is told in the grand tradition of adventure 
novels, such as King Solomon’s Mines, in an overbloated, 
Victorian novel style. Apparently, it was inspired by the Tsuyama 
Sanjuuninkoroshi incident, in which thirty people were 
murdered, (pg.72) 

Doctor Murder - Originally U satsujin hakusei.” (pg.76) 

CHAPTER 2-2 


Karma Dance - An East Indian tribal dance that is performed 
during the worship of the God and Goddess of Fate—the 
bearers of good and bad fortune. The Japanese phrase would 
be “ karuma mai .” (pg.82) 







Boogiepop and Others I 235 


CHAPTER 2-3 

First Kitchen - A popular second-rate fast food chain in Japan, 
(pg.89) 

A Ready-Built House - Japanese people tend to buy a piece 
of land, knock down whatever house is on it, and have a new 
house built that is designed for their specific needs. It seems rare 
to actually live in a house that someone else has lived in. But at 
other times, real estate companies will build houses before they 
find buyers, like this one. (pg.91) 

Note that Kirima Nagi’s “brother,” Taniguchi Masaki, is a 
central character in the next two books. 

Ten-Mat Room - In Japan, tatami mats are used as units of 
measurement that tell you how large a room is. (pg.93) 

Distortions of Reality - The word “yugami” can also be 
translated as “kinks” or “flaws,” but we’ve chosen to go with 
the word “distortions,” as the word will become a recurring motif 
that will be seen throughout the rest of the series—especially in 
the fifth novel, where it appears quite heavily, (pg.98) 


CHAPTER 3-1 


Being Scouted - The prep schools that scouted Yurihara seem 
to be regular high schools that are at a significantly higher 
level than Shinyo Academy, (pg. 116) 











236 I Kouhei Kadono 


Diet Cola - This is actually left generic in Japanese. We can 
only assume that none of the major soft drink companies want 
themselves identified as having drinks that are good for 
dissolving fatal poison tablets in. (pg. 117) 

CHAPTER 4-1 

Speech Patterns - Naoko’s speech patterns change drama¬ 
tically when she starts talking to Kimura. For that matter, so do 
Miyashita’s a little later—something about him seems to make 
girls speak a bit more openly. Probably explains why he's got 
so many girlfriends. 

MOS Burger - A fast-food restaurant chain that originated in 
Japan, and next to McDonald’s, is the largest fast-food 
franchise in the country, (pg. 153) 

CHAPTER 4-2 


Ronin - A student that failed his/her college entrance exams, and 
who is currently attending cram school. Keitaro Urashima from 
the series Love Hina is a prime example of a ronin. In feudal 
times, a ronin referred to a masterless samurai, (pg. 157) 

American Coffee - Coffee that is brewed weaker than a 
“regular” cup of coffee, (pg. 158) 




Boogiepop and Others I 237 


CHAPTER 4-3 

Hoshi Shinichi - One of the most popular short story writers 
of Post-War Japan. During his career, Hoshi wrote over a 
thousand short stories and published several full-length novels 
and biographies. His area of special interest was in science 
fiction writing, (pg.162) 

Tanabata Festival - Commonly known as “The Star 
Festival” and held on July 7 th , this celebration is based on an 
ancient Chinese legend about an epic love story between the 
two stars Altair and Vega that are separated by the Milky 
Way, except for this one special day. (pg. 162) 


CHAPTER 5-2 

Lecture Hall — Like an auditorium, but without chairs. 
(Pg-189) 


CHAPTER 5-3 

You Aren’t Human - Originally “ hitodenashi! " This bit and 
the second reference to distortions in the world were by far the 
two most difficult lines in the book to translate, as it s difficult to 
try and capture the nuance of a line and still have it sound like 
something you’d shout at a moment like this, (pg.201) 





238 I Kouhei Kadono 




Waiting Until Graduation - It does say a lot about the 
book’s world view that Kei can’t imagine Saotome Masami 
and the Manticore taking over the world until after they 

graduate, (pg.203) 

CHAPTER 5-5 

Rumors - Nagi’s theory seems contradicted by Touka’s 
reaction on the phone; she might be wrong. The Boogiepop 
Dual manga certainly suggests that the rumors about 
Boogiepop have been spread independently of Touka. 

(pg-216) 








Join us now for a special sneak preview of 
the second novel in the Boogiepop series. 


written bv 




m'W: -x* : ... .S'- : S-SxS 


illustrated bv 


ptlM 
awsaeawait 




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■tfm; 


^:f¥S®SS#S: : .igi|^ 


english translation by 

Andrew 

Cunningham 












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■ 























Prelude 


O n a very cold and snowy day in early March, a girl 
climbed to the top of our prefectural high school, Shinyo 
Academy, and proceeded to throw herself off of the roof of the 
building. Her name was Minahoshi Suiko. She was only 
seventeen. 

“Mariko-san, what is it you like?” she asked me abruptly 
one day, back when she was still alive. 

Without putting much thought into it, I gave her the name of a 
pop star that everyone was listening to. 

“Hmm.. .really?” 

“Yeah. He’s kinda cool,” I said offhandedly. 

Suiko-san took a deep breath, faced the setting sun, and 
began to whistle. 

Our school is up in the mountains, and it’s a place where most 
students end up taking the bus to get to or from. On that 
particular day, Suiko-san and I had decided to walk home 
together, and we had the streets all to ourselves. 


242 I Kouhei Kadono 


The tune she whistled turned out to be the most popular 
song of the pop star that I’d mentioned. It was clear from 
listening to her that she was an exceptional whistler. She made 
the melody seem quite beautiful, to the point that it sounded 
much, much better than the actual song itself. When she 
finished, I couldn’t help but applaud. 

“That was amazing! Suiko, you’re really good!” 

“Not really. If you liked it, it’s because you already had a 
predisposition to liking it in the first place.” 

She was the type of person who said dramatic things like 
that, and it came to her quite naturally. 

“You must have practiced, though. Do you play an 
instrument?” 

“No, just by ear.” 

“Then you must have perfect pitch or something. That’s 
awesome! What do you usually listen to?” 

“Stuff nobody’s ever heard of.” 

“Like what?” 

“Mm, for example,” and she took another breath, and 
began a different piece. 

This time, it was more humming than whistling, as if she were 
a magical instrument that could reproduce any melody in 
existence. 

“.!” I was so stunned just listening to her that I forgot 

to breathe. 

There was simply no comparison to the first song. There 
was a resonance in my chest, a vibration in my heart that 
somehow made me feel very sad, all of a sudden. It was a 
strange melody—both rhythmical and powerful. 

When she finished, I couldn't applaud. I was choked up, with 
tears welling up in my eyes. 




Boogiepop and Others I 243 


. .What’s wrong? Didn’t you like it?” 

“No... no! It was... it was... uh, I feel sort of embarrassed 
now. It’s like my song was just an imitation of real music...” 

“I thought you liked that song?” 

“N-no, I think I couldn’t have, really. When I heard your 
song just now, it felt like.. .this is the first time that I've ever really 
known that I liked a piece of music. And it didn’t have anything to 
do with what’s popular or trendy!” I cried, getting worked up. 

“That’s nice,” Suiko-san said, smiling. She was as 
beautiful, if not more beautiful, than the song. And then, she stood 
there backlit by the red light of the evening sky. It was like I was 
seeing the silhouette of a goddess. 

“What song was that?” I asked. 

She giggled. “You won’t laugh?” 

“Why would I?” 

“The name of the piece is Salome. It’s from a ballet.” 

“What’s odd about that?” 

“The composer is Ifukube Akira.” 

“Who?” 

“He’s most famous for writing the soundtracks to monster 
movies,” Suiko-san said, putting her hand to her mouth, 
shoulders trembling as she laughed. 

This gesture was so feminine that it made my heart beat 
faster. I thought to myself that I could never laugh that 
naturally. No, there was nobody else I knew who could laugh 
so beautifully or as unreservedly as her. 

But now she was no longer with us. 

I couldn’t understand it. Why would a girl like her ever 
want to kill herself? 

They said she didn’t leave a note. We don’t know if she 
had some secret pain that drove her to it, or if she did it just to 


244 I Kouhei Kadono 


prove some kind of point. 

But I wanted to know. I had to know. 

I can’t honestly say that the two of us were all that close. 

But on those rare occasions where we were alone together, 
she would always talk to me. That was about it, though. 

Still, she was without a doubt the most real person I’d ever 
met, up to that point. I can’t think of any other way of 
describing it. Everyone else was just imitating someone else, 
trying desperately to pretend that it was their true nature. They 
were all frauds. 

So I thought that there had to be some meaning behind her 
suicide. 

That’s why I’m going to follow her. 

Is that imitation too? Probably. 

What’s sad is that I don’t even know if I really loved her. 
And that’s the irony; my life is going to end without me really 
understanding much of anything. 

Komiya Mariko stood on the roof of the school, 
composing her suicide note in her head, but she decided not to 
write it down. 

The sky was dark. 

The sun had set a long time ago, and the last traces of light 
were quickly fading away. 

“Suiko-san...” 

She looked over the edge of the roof. 

Below her, she could still see the white line where 
Minahoshi Suiko’s body had landed. The world around her 
was almost completely dark, but that line alone seemed to 



Boogiepop and Others I 245 


glow, floating upwards. 

She swallowed. 

Something that Minahoshi Suiko had said to her once 
popped into her head. 

“Mariko-san, there’s nothing in this world that is truly 
decided. Birds sometimes fall out of the air, and sometimes it 
snows in April. Everything is uncertain, nothing is 
‘unnatural.’” 

I wonder what that meant? 

Perhaps I’ll understand if I only climb over this fence...! 

The white line moved, beckoning to her. It was an illusion, 
but it seemed too natural to call it that. It made perfect sense to 
Mariko. 

There seemed to be no other logical choice of her doing 
anything else in life except jumping. The impulse rose up 
inside her. Her body shook, but not with fear—no, it was 
excitement. 

“Suiko-san...!” 

Komiya Mariko grabbed hold of the fence, preparing to 
climb. 

But a voice came from behind her. 

“—You wish to follow Minahoshi Suiko? You can’t do it 
that way. It’s impossible.” 

The voice was very strange.. .like that of a boy or a girl, 
yet at the same time, neither. 

“-?!” Mariko turned around in surprise. 

He sat on the other side of the roof, half hidden in 
darkness. 

A pipe-shaped black hat half hid his eyes, and he was 
wrapped in a black cape with a number of rivets attached to it. 
There was black lipstick, contrasting with the white of his face. 







246 I Kouhei Kadono 


“If you jump now, you will not end up where she has 
gone,” he said quietly. 

“Y-you’re...?” Mariko said. She was clearly shaken, but 
not because she didn’t know him. No, she knew all about him. 
All the girls in school were talking about him. 

But for him to be real...? 

“It seems you know me. That make things easier.” His left 

‘■Q 

eye narrowed, and the right side of his mouth curled up in a 
strange, asymmetrical expression. 

“W-what do you mean? Why can’t I go to her?” 

“Simple. You are about to end your life of your own free 
will. But Minahoshi Suiko did not. If there is such a thing as 
heaven, you will surely end up in a different place than her.” It 
would be accurate to describe his voice as chilly. 

“She did not end her life of her ‘own free will?’ What does 
that mean?” Mariko felt as if the ground beneath her feet were 
crumbling. 

“You know my name, don’t you? Then you know what I 
do.” He was half shrouded in darkness. It looked as if he were 
dissolving into thin air. 

“Th-then... you?” 

“Yes. I am a shinigami. Minahoshi Suiko did not kill 
herself. I.. .killed her.” 

“W-why?!” 

“Because she was an enemy of the world.” 

“So now what? Do you still wish to die? Unfortunately, 
I’m afraid I have no intention of killing you. You are not even 
worth that much.” 

“B-but.. .but...” Mariko stuttered, confused. She wasn’t 
sure of anything now. 




Boogiepop and Others I 247 

The enemy of the world? Suiko-san? How? What did that 
mean? 

“Alternatively, I could put it this way. Minahoshi Suiko 
has not yet reached the next world. Unlike me, she was not 
‘divided,’ but she was equally ‘automatic.’ But where she is 
now.. .1 really couldn’t tell you.” 

Mariko couldn’t understand anything the cloaked figure 
was saying. 

She hadn’t reached the next world? 

Reflexively, Mariko looked at the ground below on the 
other side of the fence. It was now too dark to make out the 
white line any longer. 

It was crazy. Mariko had seen her.. .seen what used to be 
her, as the authorities carried her body away under a 
bloodstained, white shroud. What did it all mean? 

“What does it mean, Boogie—?!” Mariko cried out, 
turning around.. .but the cloaked figure was gone. 

She looked around, but came up with nothing. The darkness 
was too complete. It was impossible to tell where the mysterious 
figure in black had gone. 

Or perhaps it had never physically been there at all. 

a 

At last, fear welled up in Mariko’s heart. 

She glanced at the ground below her. 

But the fence that had seemed so easy to scale a moment 
ago now seemed as if it were a hundred meters tall. 

“Aah...” 

“It’s impossible. ” 

“You will not end up where she has gone. ” 

“Minahoshi Suiko has not yet reached the next world. ” 





248 I Kouhei Kadono 


Her legs shook. 

“Aaaaah...!” 

And Mariko crumbled, falling to the floor. Tear after tear 
rolled down her face. She couldn’t stop them from coming. 
They were the first tears she’d shed since Minahoshi Suiko 
had died. 

She had been convinced it was better to die than to cry, but 
now she couldn’t hold the tears back. 

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.. .I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry...” 

■o 

she whispered in a slow rhythm, as she rocked herself back and 
forth. But her tiny voice was faint and was swept away by the 
wind, and lost in the night. 


a 55 

The figure in the black hat watched her from below. 
Beneath his feet was a white line in the shape of a person. 

He went down on his knee, and ran his hand over the line. 
“She’s certainly not here any more...” he murmured, and 
stood up. “Are you going to try again? ImaginatorT 
His black cape flapped furiously in the night wind. 



1 . 


^Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, she 
said. Her name was Nakadai Sawako, and her cheekbones 
stood out ever so slightly. But her face was very pale, and to 
Asukai Jin, she looked like a dried-up, withered bouquet 
inside an oversized jacket. 

“Hmm,” he said. 

“I know it’s cliche, but I feel like something’s sitting on 
my chest, looking at me. But when 1 open my eyes...” 

“There’s nothing there?” 

“Yes. I mean, I know it’s a dream, but...I have it over and 
over again. So...” 

Sawako’s shoulders trembled. In her hair, there were still 
lingering traces of a two-month-old perm, but she wasn’t one 
to take care of herself, and she had obviously paid little attention 
to it since then. And understandably so—there were only four 
more months left until the entrance exam. Like so many girls, she 
would make an appointment to have her hair straightened just 
before the big day, and then strive to take good care of it in 



250 I Kouhei Kadono 


order to make a good impression at the interview, but at the 
moment, she simply didn’t have the time to care. 

“This... ‘shadow’...” Asukai said, interrupting her. “Has it 
said anything to you?” 

She looked up at him, surprised. “Yes! Yes, it has. How did 
you know?” 

Ignoring her question, he asked another, “What did it say? 
Do you remember?” 

“N-no, I...” 

“You can’t remember at all?” 

“Right,” she nodded. 

The cram school was designed to squeeze a large number 
of people into a very small space to begin with, and the 
guidance office was hidden in a comer of the building. It was 
about the size of a prison’s solitary confinement cell. And the 
two of them were all alone in the tiny room. 

There was only one window—a long, thin, vertical slit in 
the wall, through which a single ray of light penetrated. The 
light was red. It was already evening. 

“Hmm...” Asukai said again, shutting his mouth and 
looking down at the girl’s chest. 

‘...She has no roots,’ he thought. ‘Very few leaves...only 
the buds are large, and they’re almost breaking the stem... ’ 

Sawako grew uncomfortable in the silence, and began 
locking her fingers together on her knees. 

“Um, Asukai-sensei...?” 

“.” He didn’t respond. 

He had a pointed chin and a thin face with a serene beauty 
to it. He was not much older than Sawako, just past twenty. 
He was a student at a public university, but he taught art part time 
at this cram school. And he had taken over the highly 





Boogiepop and Others I 251 


unpopular position of guidance counselor. 

44 99 

She looked up at him timidly. At some point, he’d taken 
his eyes off her and was staring out the window. 

“I-I’m sorry, this all must sound crazy...” Sawako 
whispered, unable to stand it any longer. 

Quietly, Asukai said, “As a teacher, I know I’m not 
supposed to say this. But maybe you should try not to take 
exams so seriously.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Getting into the best university isn’t going to relieve you 
of your worries...or guarantee your future,” he continued, 
almost like he was reading some inspirational pamphlet. “I 
know a lot of people who slaved away, got into college, and 
then had no idea what to do once they were there. All they’d 
ever done was study, and they didn’t know how to just let go 
and enjoy themselves. So they’d go ol I to try and pass the civil 
servants exam or something. They were just pointlessly 
limiting their options for a.. .1 dunno, a decent future. They 
meet the person they were supposed to fall in love with, but they 
don't recognize how valuable they would be, and without even 
noticing, they wind up missing out on the most important things in 

life. 

“They’re college students, but they can’t shake the exam 
student mentality. And very few people can pass on their first 
try. Most people fail. They become ronin. They fritter away 
their precious youth, and end up, frankly, really screwed up 
because of it.” 

She just sat there listening, wide-eyed. 

“You see?” Asukai asked, turning towards her. 

“Urn, not...” 





252 I Kouhei Kadono 


“You already know this, don’t you? But you’re doing your 
very best not to think about it. But doing your best and 
avoiding the truth.. .they’re two different things. We can’t tell 
you not to overdo it, though. The only way to actually pass 
these tests... is to overdo it. But it’s important not to burden 
you with excessive, and frankly, unrealistic expectations. I 
know you’ve heard this all before, but getting into college is 
not your whole life. That dream about the shadow is a sign 
that you’re unconsciously resisting the notion of getting into 
college. I just think you need to relax a bit.” 

“O-okay,” she nodded obediently. “But.. .but still...” 

“Yeah. That’s why you need to work at it. It isn’t a bad 
thing to want to go to college. It’s not like it’s an impossible 
dream, either. But it just isn’t healthy to get obsessed with it, 
you know? At this rate, you’re just going to get overwhelmed 
by the pressure and be in no condition to actually sit there and 
take the test.” 

“I.. .1 think I understand,” Sawako said meekly. 

‘.. .The bud relaxed a little,’ Asukai thought. ‘If she could 
just make a few more leaves.. .not that it would take care of all of 
her problems, but it would be a start. ’ 

He was looking at her chest again. 

He could see something there. 

Nobody else could see it, including the girl herself. 

After that, they spoke in more concrete terms about how 
they should go about handling her problem subjects. 

“—Thank you very much!” she yelled as she stood up 
twenty minutes later. 

“Your effort is genuine. All you have to do is just stay 
calm, and keep moving forward.” 

“Okay. And thanks, Sensei,” she started. “I feel much 


/ 



Boogiepop and Others I 253 

better now. Say, did you ever have some sort of training? Like 
as a therapist or counselor?” 

“Not really.” 

“Maybe you should consider a new career. You’re really 
smart and good looking too.” Asukai gave her an awkward 
smile, and she slapped her hand over her mouth. “Ah! Sorry! I 
didn’t mean to be rude...!” 

“I’ll think about,” he chuckled. “They do say you can’t 
make a living painting.” 

As she was about to leave, Sawako suddenly turned back, 
remembering something. “Oh, right! Sensei, have you heard 
the phrase, ‘Sometimes, it snows in April’ ?” 

“What?” Asukai said, shocked. 

“That’s the only thing I remember from my dream. Oh, but 
it’s probably not important. Good-bye!” she said brightly as 
she exited—her gloomy exterior having finally been shed. 

“Sometimes.. .it snows in April?” 

For some reason, those words made something stir inside 
Asukai. 


When Asukai Jin thought about his strange ability to see 
the flaws in people’s hearts, he always remembered Saint- 
Exupery’s The Little Prince. He had read il when he was three 
or four years old, but he remembered one line from it that went 
something like, “The reason this child was beautiful was 
because he had a rose within his heart.” 

He felt as if that image had been carved into his psyche 
and left a lasting impression on him. 

His eyes could see a single plant growing from every 


254 I Kouhei Kadono 


person’s chest. The variety of plant in his vision varied, and 
they came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the problem was 
not the variety of plant, but with the very fact that in every 
vision, there was some part missing. 

Perhaps there was no flower. Or no leaves. No stem. Or, 
like this girl, no roots. He had never once seen a person that 
carried a complete plant within their chest. 

There was always a flaw. 

So, his ‘advice’ was simply to say whatever was needed to 
compensate for that flaw. If there were no roots, all he had to 
do was tell them to have more confidence. Everyone would be 
satisfied by that, and recover their good cheer. 

His job at the cram school finished, he walked back to his 
apartment along a bustling shopping street. He couldn’t help 
but notice the flaws on everyone’s chests. 

It annoyed him, occasionally. 

Human effort was entirely devoted to making up for this 
flaw. He knew this. But he also knew that what they lacked 
was never in them to begin with, and it was something that could 
never be obtained. 

He had looked at his own chest before, but he could find 
nothing there. Presumably, he was lacking something also, and 
it was that missing item that was making him so unhappy. 
Unfortunately, there was no way for him to replace it either. 

“...So that’s why / said...” 

“...What the...?” 

“...Hahaha! That’s so dumb...” 

Drunks, young people, old people, males, females.. .they 
all passed him by. None of them ever thought that they were 
missing flowers or roots. 

(They’re happier not knowing...) 



Boogiepop and Others I 255 


Since he was very young, he had always felt isolated. 

Perhaps he always would. 

“—Oh, look! Snow!” 

“Wow! It’s so pretty!” 

Everyone around him was cheering at the sky, so Asukai 
felt obligated look up as well. 

Something white was falling out of the night sky. 

(I do like snow...) 

Snow turned everything white. It was one of his favorite 
things. Perhaps because flowers never bloomed beneath it. He 
could go about his business without thinking about anything 
else...or so he felt. 

But when he looked happily up at the sky, his expression 
suddenly froze. 

There was a girl standing in the fifth story window of a 
nearby building. 

Her feet were on the window ledge, her body all the way 
outside, getting ready to jump. 

As he stared up at her, their eyes met. 

She smiled slightly with her eyes. Then... 

“No...!” Asukai tried to shout, but she flung her body 
outward into the open air. 

Reflexively, Asukai ran towards her. 

But his feet went out from under him, and he fell 
awkwardly. 

He hurriedly scrambled back to his feet, but as looked up 
again, he saw something impossible. 

“Heh heh heh. ” 


The girl was floating in mid-air, laughing. 







256 I Kouhei Kadono 


But there was something unique about her smile. Her 
mouth was closed in a straight line, and her eyes alone smiled, 
sweet and enchanting. 

She was frozen in mid-air, about to fall, but not moving at 
all. 

“Hunh...?” he wondered. 

“Hey, wake up! You’re in the way,” snarled a group of 
drunks, brushing past him. 

“D-do you see that?” Asukai asked, pointing at the girl. 

None of them paid much attention. “What are you on 
about?” 

“You’ve had too much to drink!” 

They were looking where he was pointing, but none of 
them could see her. 

(W-what on earth...?) 

He stood up, looking up at her, stunned. 

Now that he looked carefully, he could tell that she was 
actually falling, just very, very slowly. Her tangled hair was 
moving, swaying. 

“Heheheh.” 

Those laughing eyes drank in the light like they were holes 
in the sky. 

“It isn’t much fun to see things nobody else can, is it, 
Asukai-sensei?” he heard her whisper in his ear. 

“How...?” 

“I know exactly how you feel. I used to be the same.” 

Asukai stumbled over, until he was directly below the falling 

girl. 

“Th-then you...” 

“Just like your extra sensory perception, I can see people’s 
deaths.” 



Boogiepop and Others I 257 


Her expression never changed—that tightly closed mouth 
never moved. It was as if time around her moved at a snail’s 
pace. 

“Deaths?” 

“To be more accurate, I can see the energy field generated 
by all living things just before they burn themselves out.” She 
laughed again. “I represent a possibility, in which people are 
able to manipulate death. My purpose is to recreate the world 
in that fashion, which makes me an enemy of the current 
world. Even in spring, I bring cold. I make it snow in April.” 

“Er...” 

“Will you help me with my work, Asukai-sensei?” 

“What...? What are you talking about? Who are you?!” he 
shouted. 

The people around him looked at him suspiciously. To 
them, he was shouting at empty space. They must have 
thought him plastered beyond his limit or tripped out on drugs. 

In the air above him, the girl replied, “My enemies call me 
the Imaginator.” 

And she vanished. 

“W-wait!” he cried, reaching out towards her, but his 
fingers only brushed empty space. 

66 11 

He was astounded, but then his shoulders slumped in 
disappointment. He thought to himself that he had finally gone 
completely insane. Seeing things. It was obvious—and then he 
glanced at his feet, and almost shouted. 

The falling snow had piled up all around, except at his 
feet, where a small patch of pavement was left exposed. 

It was like a shadow puppet in the shape of a girl falling 
from the sky. 








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To be continued in 



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Bom in 1968, Kouhei Kadono grew up uncertain about his direction in life. He 
spent a considerable portion of his early years frittering away his youth before 
somehow ending up writing novels. 




In 1997, Kadono-sensei’s first Boogiepop novel, Bodgiepop and Others , took 
First Place in the Media Works’ Dengeki Game Novel Contest. Early the 
following year, the novel was released to widespread acclaim and ignited the 
Japanese “light novel” (young adult) trend. Since that time, Kadono-sensei has 
written thirteen Boogiepop novels and several related works such as the Beat's 
Discipline short story collections and the two Boogiepop manga series entitled 
Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh and Boogiepop Dual. In its entirety, the Boogiepop 
series has seen over two million copies in print and spawned a live action movie 
and a hit anime series. 

In addition to the Boogiepop universe, Kadono-sensei’s body of literary work 
includes a wide array of fantasy and mystery’ novels such as the Men. Soul 
Drop, Limited World and Night Wa0h series. 





Bom in 1970, a native of Osaka, Kouji Ogata spent his early twenties struggling 
to get enough credits to graduate from Osaka Design School. In late 1996, 
Ogata-sensei was commissioned by Media Works to illustrate the first Boogiepop 
novel, Boogiepop and Others. 




At the time, Ogata-sensei was simply a rising star with a distinctive, eye¬ 
catching art style, but he gradually was able to further hone his artistic skills 
with each subsequent work. His watercolor-style paneling seen in the two 
volume BoogiepopDoesn't Laugh manga series was a particularly high point of 
his early career. 


In addition to providing illustrations for novels and manga. Ogata sensei has 
been involved with supplying character designs for anime productions 
including Boogiepop Phantom. Spirit and Gin-iro no kami no \gilo. 

In his free time he enjoys motorcycles, tennis, and remote controlled models 




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